The Travelin Maine(rs), George and Linda Smith of Mount Vernon, have spent their lifetimes enjoying all that Maine has to offer. Now they’ll tell you all about it — their favorite inns, restaurants, trips, activities, experiences, and travel books and websites — in their own personal style. They’ll be offering anecdotes, tips and all the details you need. So join them in exploring, experiencing and enjoying Maine.

Your valentine deserves pampering, and nothing defines the experience like a spa treatment. While Valentine’s Day occurs on a Tuesday this year, we recommend that you schedule a visit for your favorite person to a nearby spa the previous weekend. That will guarantee you a Terrific Tuesday on Feb. 14!

Two of our favorite spas are located at the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, and the Senator Inn and Spa in Augusta. If you include an overnight stay and dinner at one of these inns, well, you’ll give your valentine a gift that he or she will never forget. And, perhaps best of all, you can join your valentine for a very special experience! Yes, our Valentine’s Day gift includes you!

Listen up guys: If you’re in trouble, the best path to right all wrongs goes to a spa for the one who means the world to you. You and I know your 2011 record is not perfect.

Linda and I recently visited the Inn by the Sea’s spa — the most elaborate we’ve visited — a suite of rooms with astonishing features, very friendly and professional staff, and a level of luxurious comfort that I’d never experienced.

I asked spa manager Malina Payne, one of many Mainers who work there, what the most common questions are from first-time visitors. What to wear — or not wear — during a massage is the top one, although many first-timers are too embarrassed to ask. Malina answers the question even if it isn’t asked.

Nudity is OK and you are “professionally draped” at all times — meaning the massage therapist keeps you covered — except for the sections of your body she’s working on. You may also wear as much clothing as you need to be comfortable in that situation. You can specify either a male or female massage therapist.

Another question is how much and when to tip. Tip 15 to 20 percent of the price — that’s typical — but tipping is very personal to your experience. You can offer your tip when you settle up on your bill as you leave the spa, or hand it to the massage therapist after your treatment.

Here’s what’s important if you’ve never done this. They want you to be as comfortable and relaxed as possible. So ask every question you have, either when you reserve your massage or when you arrive.

These people are in the friendly business! And there is nothing they haven’t encountered or been asked.

There are dozens of massage and treatment choices, and most can be enjoyed as a couple — if you haven’t annoyed that special person in your life too much lately. If you have, you’ll probably be massaging alone.

At the Senator, I quickly dubbed my massage therapist, Elizabeth, “magic hands,” as she worked the stress out of my muscles and applied the hot rocks ($99) that Lin had recommended. Amazing! Next visit there, I’m going for the Chocolate Treat for Hands and Feet.

After 15 minutes of relaxation in the men’s sanctuary of the Inn by the Sea’s spa, where I could have spent the day, my massage therapist, Holly, knocked on the door and escorted me to the therapy room, where Lin and I enjoyed his and hers 60-minute deep-tissue massages.

Holly asked what particular parts of my body were hurting, but I didn’t have time to give her the entire list. Amazingly, she hit all the right spots with just the right amount of pressure. When I complimented Holly as the massage ended she said, “I’ve been told I have GPS in my fingers.” Exactly!
Our visit to the Inn by the Sea’s spa reminded me what I love so much about a spa. Everything.
Spending time in a serene, tranquil place where nothing is expected of you but to relax is an indulgence of the purest form. This spa was built three years ago and it’s huge.

There are separate sanctuaries for men and women that included changing areas, lockers, showers, steam room, plus an ultra elegant relaxation room. Help yourself to tea or water. The colors, decorations, soothing music and comfortable chairs will help you clear your mind. There is a lengthy list of all the kinds of massages and facials offered.   

This is the first place that’s ever given me a choice of the music played before therapy started. (I was told I was the most decisive client they’ve ever had!) This is also the first time we’ve tried a couples’ massage. I was so afraid that George would talk and I wouldn’t have the silence (except for soothing music) that I need to for me to fully enjoy it. He admitted afterward that quiet was better. If you aren’t talking, you aren’t thinking.

The waitress at breakfast insisted I try the experiential shower. After my blissful massage by Ilanna, I gave it a whirl once she had explained all the buttons. There were four groupings of jets from above, and two more on each side in this massive shower! After all the complaints I get when my kids come home about Mount Vernon’s water pressure, I could see there was indeed room for improvement after that experience.

The Senator Inn has a beautiful spa offering manicures, pedicures, many types of massages and even a hair salon. This is where I had my first massage several years ago. I highly recommend the hot stone massage there. The Senator’s Spa won Down East Magazine Readers’ Choice award in both 2010 and 2011.

Massage therapists are highly professional. I remember that the one I had at the Samoset Resort’s spa in Rockport pinpointed the exact muscle group that was giving me trouble, and even recommended stretches to help!

You may think a massage, priced around $100, is extravagant — but only if you have never had one.

Think of your massage therapist as part of the medical and chiropractic professions, and understand that this is a bargain!

More importantly, your valentine deserves this. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Visit George’s website: for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.

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