Unplugged: A spa weekend at Callaway Gardens

I am always delighted to find a retreat close to home that feels like far away. Recently, some girlfriends and I decided to escape for a spa getaway but didn’t want to drive too far. A couple of us had heard some buzz about a luxury resort called The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens so we decided to go there. To our delight, we found ourselves in a different world.

Just a short one-hour drive south of Atlanta in Pine Mountain, GA, we discovered a tranquil retreat that aligns an eco-conscious philosophy with rustic elegance. The Lodge and Spa seemed like a prefect solution. The enticing blend of luxuries of an upscale resort with the simple, Zen-like touches of Mother Nature, forced us all to realize just how different this atmosphere is from our hectic lives in Atlanta. Our rooms were “Ralph Lauren rustic” but so luxurious with deep warm hues, lush comfortable bedding, huge, well-lighted bathrooms (an often-overlooked priority for ladies) and expansive balconies overlooking a soothing free form pool. Breathing in the fresh mountain air, I kept thinking what a perfect spot this is to enjoy a bottle of wine with my friends, or a special someone (next trip!) or, if I had small children, what fun it would be to see them enjoy playing in those gardens.

My friends and I were most looking forward to the spa experience””always a list-topper for our quick-trip getaways. The Lodge and Spa’s “Spa Prunifolia,” named a “Top 100 Spa” by Conde Nast is one of the plushest I’ve ever been to. Before our treatments, we cozied up in huge club chairs by the fire in the ladies’ lounge while dining on the spa’s tasting lunch menu including a delicious spread of black-eyed pea hummus, assorted veggie wraps and fresh fruit. Each of us had our own treatments including a garden aromatherapy manicure, Swedish massage and deep tissue massage. I chose a soothing earth facial infused with essential nutrients and antioxidant””one of the most satisfying facials ever.

After the spa, we set out on an adventure exploring the gardens””Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden, Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center and Lake Robin Beach. Miles and miles of biking/walking trails allow The Lodge and Spa guests easy access to Callaway Gardens’ amenities. Callaway Gardens was conceived and created by Cason J. Callaway and his wife Virginia Hand Callaway to provide an environment of beauty, relaxation, inspiration and a better understanding of the living world. The more we explored, the more we came to appreciate the family legacy and we felt like true Callaway kin.

Also a list-topper for our group: cocktails. We headed to Ironwood Lounge to “celebrate.” Our bartender was quite the host making sure our drinks were topped off at all times, so, really happy and really hungry, we moved into Piedmont Grille to enjoy classic southern fare and pore over an extensive, creative wine list. The Piedmont Grille participates in farm-to-fork dining as part of the resort’s dedication to eco-consciousness and the ingredients used are all fresh and locally produced. Chef Daniel Walters highlights as much organic and wild ingredients as the region has to offer in all his creations. We all flipped over the appetizer: Duck Confit Flatbread, with pulled duck, onion marmalade, arugula and shaved Parmesan. After salads, we had Butternut Squash Ravioli with organic spinach and fresh sage, Georgia pecans and brown butter, followed by Grilled Flat Iron Steak with a sinful smoked Gouda mac-and-cheese. Dessert was a Salted Apple Caramel Tart with steel-cut oatmeal topping and whipped cream.

After dinner, we returned to Ironwood Lounge for cordials and a contest to see who could come up with the best excuse why we couldn’t leave the next morning.

Alas, we had to leave for obligations back in Atlanta, but let’s just say we were dragging our feet. This truly was rustic elegance at its best and we just did not want to leave. With the only sounds being birds and flowing water from the fountain below, we were relaxed and removed from the world as we knew it. My next visit will be with a special someone, along with a couple of bicycles on the rack.

The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens is part of the Marriott Autograph Collection property and sits amidst 13,000 acres in Callaway Gardens. The Lodge and Spa is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, providing a place of inspiration and better understanding of the living world. For more information please visit www.callawaymagazine.com or call (888) 312-8002.