Story and Photos for the Washington Post's FW
We (and by that I mean I) were severely underdressed for lounging at the Umstead. The Forbes five star resort and spa set in a 12-acre wooded grove in Cary, North Carolina warrants slink; champagne satin a la Harlow, marabou mules, a coupe not a flute for the bubbly.
Sleek blond furniture, Frette linens, plush carpets, triple layers of drape, it's tres 1930s drawing room comedy. Bring on Jeeves! Enter Clark Gable. (You can add a pup but Fluffy will add $200 to room tabs that begin at $329).
Our 1080 square foot suite runs $599, including a foyer, powder room, huge balcony overlooking the pool (open through November) and a lake with a trail that skirts splashing fountains and basking turtles. The bath, large enough for a rumba and standard in all rooms, features a soaking tub, separate glassed shower and toilet, double vanity, and Gilcrest and Soames toiletries.
What magic have they done with the lighting and mirrors? One looks ten pounds lighter, three inches taller, positively slinky. Fear not the dreaded mirrored elevator! You won't regret the final glance before sashaying off to Herons, the hotel's extraordinary restaurant, or a night cap in the bar and grill, which borrows glitter from the Dale Chihuly glass sculpture -- the room's centerpiece captivates the eye from every angle. The hotel's artwork alone is worth the visit.
A zip down the road from the Research Triangle that is Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill (and the perfect chill out if you're visiting your college student at Duke, Wake Forest, or UNC), the Umstead is also a fine stopping point on trips south. "It's our fourth visit," said one glowing guest from Baltimore. "We've traveled the world and the restaurant is incredible -- and after a five hour car trip the massage is heavenly!"
Ah, the spa. Included with your room are separate but equal facilities for men and women, including eucalyptus infused steam baths, saunas, whirlpools, lounges, a meditation garden, and a co-ed current pool. There are cucumber slices for the eyes (though we can't swear they offer them to guys), teas and waters for system cleansing and invigorating.
Extras include massage therapies from thumping to soothing, exotic body scrubs, collagen facials and peels, manicures, and waxing. A tour guide is required to show you the layout. One is provided.
And have you ever been in a scented gym? We (and by that, I mean I) kid you not. Sweat never smelled so sweet.