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Mexican Magic

Ixtapan de la Sal

Washington’s comings and goings can take their toll, so where better to “take the waters” than a lovely colonial mineral spring resort scant hours from Mexico City? Ixtapan de la Sal, “place over the salt,” was the coveted refuge of Aztec Emperors. Hotel Spa Ixtapan, long known as “America’s Shangri-La,” today welcomes guests with the same mountain views, exotic gardens and temperatures that never venture far from 70 degrees year round.

Early morning walks are a wake-up call to the 5,500 feet altitude as the unacclimated negotiate steep inclines on a magnificent 18-hole golf course with a sought after resident pro. Well-manicured tennis courts also await. The range of activities includes aerobics, yoga by two instructors, Pilates, aquatics, salsa and a choice of exercise equipment.

The spa package offers fresh and delicious cuisine as well as the option of a full menu in the hotel dining room. Behaving is not too difficult as breakfast presents a colorful buffet of fresh fruits, yoghurt, cereals and what everyone agrees are the freshest eggs this side of the farm. Spa participants enjoy lunch around one of the two pools. There are multiple courses with a lovely broth-based soup, salads and fresh fruit sorbets. Dinner is a repeat of multiple courses with a choice of fish or other protein as well as a vegetarian selection. The cuisine warrants the spa’s published cookbook although one would be hard pressed to duplicate the same flavors north of the border.

And now to the main attraction–daily massages, plus scheduled facials with fruit and vegetable masques, reflexology, hair treatments, manicure, pedicure and many more treatments administered by a dedicated trained staff. Additional hot stone massages and other treats are available either at the hotel spa or the adjacent pristine public baths. An 8,000 square foot holistic spa is scheduled to open in the year. The hotel staff is wonderfully accommodating. The leaders of the morning walks resurface with smiles behind the bell station or even proffering a Margarita.

Venturing off campus is easily accomplished. Tours go to nearby pre-Aztec archeological sites, the historic town of Tonatico with its outdoor market, as well as Taxco and Cuernavaca. Just outside the gate that separates the hotel from the public bath house are stalls that display an impressive spectrum of native crafts. A brief stroll down the main street into town offers tempting wares. You might check out the silver at Plateria Mary or Plateria Julio. An excellent sampling of crafts and clothing is available at Calli Art. Return visitors head to Perfumeria Rossy and Farmacia Madrid for bargain-priced creams and other potions available only by prescription in the United States.

A blissful week last fall coincided with the Mexican several-day remembrance of the departed which is truly a celebration with flower and food bedecked graves as the music plays on.

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