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A Weekend Spa Vacation in the Misty Costa Rican Mountains

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A Weekend Spa Vacation in the Misty Costa Rican Mountains

Written by: Megan O’Neill

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Published on: November 24, 2022

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They say it takes a whole week to fully unwind on vacation, but clearly “they” have never spent a weekend at Hacienda AltaGracia, Auberge Resorts Collection, a spa hotel high in the thick-with-mist Talamanca Mountains of Costa Rica. You sleep in a rustic casita—a fantasy of giant slouchy baskets, artisanal ceramics, wood accents juxtaposing flourishes of sleek marble, and enormous windows overlooking 180 acres of flowering landscape overrun with hot-pink hummingbirds and rare butterflies. You hold head-clearing Ashtanga poses in a gorgeous open-air yoga pavilion. And when you order a cocktail—I asked for something faintly smoky and negroni-ish—it arrives in what looks like a steam-shrouded jewelry box. Within an hour of touching down (the 30-minute private plane ride to the property from the airport is an exhilarating way to experience Costa Rica’s lusciously green landscape), I was firmly in vacation mode, completely untethered from my earthly worries.

Hacienda AltaGracia, Auberge Resorts


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yoga studio

Perhaps nothing put me right into the moment like floating in the rejuvenating waters at The Well, the property’s spa paradise perched at the top of a winding path edged with coffee plants and colorful blooms. (Just the stroll to get there from your casita is enough to make you fall in love with the place, especially at night, when there are a trillion stars glinting above you.) The supreme pampering begins when you step into Casa de Agua, the serene, sky-high-ceilinged epicenter where you can splay out on colossal slabs of heated marble in your bikini while a spa attendant slathers you head to toe in an exfoliating herbal concoction and locally sourced mineral-rich clay. I lay there like a lizard on a sun-warmed rock, getting up every now and then to sip some garden tea and pop gooseberries into my mouth; someone had stealthily placed a bowl of them near my robe.

How to Do Hydrotherapy and Exfoliate for Glow at Home

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When the herbs and clay had worked enough of their skin-smoothing magic, I rinsed off and spent the next hour before my scheduled treatment oscillating between the heated jet pool and the large, cooler tranquility pool. It turns out hydrotherapy is a powerful antidote to email-body (the stiffening of the limbs from too much time hunched over a computer). Just when I thought I couldn’t luxuriate any harder, my massage commenced: a 90-minute haze of hurts-so-good kneading and euphoric scalp massage. Afterward, I stumbled—blissed out—to the aromatherapy steam room, before heading back to get dressed for dinner. (Warning: Going to The Well at Hacienda might have forever ruined me for all other spas. Fortunately, The Well has locations in Manhattan and Washington, Connecticut.)

Megan at spa
Megan at spa

Grano—one of five on-site restaurants—is cozy and beautifully decorated with plush pillow-padded booths, giant windows, pretty wallpaper, and a practically prehistoric-size cornucopia of Costa Rican fruits that you can’t help but marvel at (and fondle) when you walk in. The vibe is sleek for sure, but there’s no need to dress to the nines—I felt vacation-chic in a swishy skirt with a touch of smudgy eyeliner and dabbed-on sheer lip color.


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The menu itself is reason enough to return to Hacienda. South African chef Liezl Odendaal gets 90 percent of the menu’s ethically sourced ingredients from Costa Rica (certain regions are categorized as Blue Zones). Every dish that comes out of her kitchen explodes with flavors and textures yet nourishes deeply and is mostly free of refined sugar and gluten (Odendaal relies on plantain, yuca, coconut, and chickpea flours). Get the arroz con pollo—pan-fried organic chicken breast with creamy cashew-nut sauce, black beans, and rice crisps made with turmeric rice—and the seared Pacifico linefish with savory coconut choka and lemony oxalis leaves. The steamed blue-corn rolls were somehow pillowy and wholesome (for once, I didn’t miss conventional flour), and the avocado ice cream came bathed in mariola honey. (Stingless mariola honeybees are unique to Costa Rica and Central America; their honey is particularly high in antioxidants and often used medicinally.) Odendaal also makes the in-room snacks—decadent nut-and-honey bars, purple-corn bizcochos, and sunflower-seed cocoa truffles. (Note: If you want to learn how to cook like her, the hotel runs amazing culinary workshops.)


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restaurant interior and entree
restaurant interior and entree

The cocktails are their own little masterpieces. There’s a menu, but the mixologists can really off-road, translating an incoherent request like mine (“Mmmm, something smoky, sweet but also savory, and strong but not hangover-forceful?”) into an imaginative, completely original drink you’ll want to re-create at home.

One morning we set off down a jungly trail on a bird-watching hike; the yellow-headed caracara and grey-cowled wood rail were exquisite, and the caña agria, with its ruffled magenta head, was the most showstopping blossom I’ve ever seen. On another morning, we sipped mugs of the creamiest cashew-milk hot chocolate (as thick as the chocolate river in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) while steeping in a secluded, vine-tangled river bath, a carved-from-the-rocks pool filled with fire-heated, herb-infused water from Rio San Ignacio, which meanders through the property. I somehow forgot my bikini and ended up skinny-dipping (you can just tell the spa attendant to keep the area private).

My husband then went off to a serene poolside restaurant for exquisitely seasoned ceviche, while I did a coffee tasting at the gorgeous Mercado (Hacienda is also a coffee farm). Two words: tahini coffee. So silky and subtly sweet, it’s now my favorite way to make coffee at home. I make a cup of coffee (the pour-over set from Pala, below, is brilliant, and the rustic pattern lights up any kitchen), let it cool slightly, and dump it, along with a tablespoon of organic tahini—I like the one from Seed + Mill—into my blender. The resulting frothy, caramel-colored caffeinated elixir doesn’t even need oat milk.


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What other habits did I bring back with me from Costa Rica? I take longer pauses to listen to the birds outside my window. I make a batch of chef Odendaal’s honey-nut granola bars on Sundays so my household is equipped with wholesome snacks for the week. I’ve dipped further into gluten-free baking. And I remind myself daily that breaks and vacation—whether that means stopping work early to do yoga in my bedroom or simply instating a no-phone rule for my subway commute home—are a beautiful necessity.

My Spa-Vacation Packing Essentials

It’s freeing to bring just a carry-on, so I take only things that can sail right past TSA.


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Win a Stay at The Prince Akatoki | Swag

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The ultra-stylish, minimalist Prince Akatoki, just north of Oxford Street, is an idyllic slice of tranquility away from the chaos that defines Marble Arch any time of the week. The former The Arch has been completely remodeled by Japanese brand Prince Hotels and is the group’s first five-star hotel in the world. The airy space has been redesigned with light woods, soft lighting, cream walls and delicate, decorative accents that create the hotel’s signature tranquil atmosphere.

The design-oriented rooms are deliberately kept simple and equipped with the essentials — a bed, a desk and chairs, a minibar, a TV, and a bathroom with a bathtub — in keeping with the minimalist vibe. But there are many additional elements that make The Prince unique. Expect a yukata robe to relax in, a yoga mat set, MALIN+GOETZ toiletries, evening chamomile in a traditional tea service, free glasses of sake or champagne upon arrival, and free soft drinks in the minibar.

In the evening, treat yourself to dinner at the in-house restaurant TOKii. Inspired by Japanese Flavors combined with international ingredients, dishes at TOKii are prepared with flair to create exciting fusion cuisine. Enjoy lobster croquettes, teriyaki duck breast, grilled robata halibut T-bones and signature sushi. Finally, end your stay with a traditional Japanese breakfast consisting of a tomago omelette, miso soup, rice, steamed vegetables, grilled salmon and egg tofu.

If this sounds like your ideal city break, you’re in luck. We’ve teamed up with The Prince Akatoki to give our INSIDERS the chance to get a FREE night’s hotel accommodation and dinner for two at TOKii. Find out how to win below. MUCH LUCK!

DO YOU WANT TO PARTICIPATE?

50 Great Cumberland Pl, Marble Arch, London W1H 7FD
theprinceakatokilondon.com

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Lifestyle

The Best Women’s Vitamins for Energy, According to a Nutritionist

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Nowadays, being busy is like a badge of honor. Between work, starting a family and settling in practical self-helpFeeling chronically busy is the only constant in my life. Amid the chaos, I’ve been contemplating my 2023 resolutions. Top of the list? To feel more energetic. This means redefining my career goals, prioritize sleepTake social media breaks and say yes to whatever realistically fits into my schedule.

I will also stock our fridge with it Foods that support energy. And no, that doesn’t include shots from 5-Hour Energy. However, it contains vitamins for women for energy. Packed with essential nutrients, women’s energy vitamins pack a double punch: they fill in all the nutritional gaps and are a safety net when life gets (inevitably) hectic.

Featured image by Michelle Nash.

picture of Riley Reed through Jenn Rose Smith

Which Nutrients Are Best For Energy?

The three main nutrients used for energy are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. This trifecta makes up our macronutrients. Combined, you help balance blood sugar (very important!), regulate hormones, support the feeling of satiety, build muscle and much more. But of the three, carbohydrates provide the fastest source of energy. Carbohydrates are not to be feared! While keto works for some people, carbs are our preferred source of energy. Once the carbohydrates are used up, we can use protein and fat for energy. In any case, these three are all essential nutrients.

Picture by Michelle Nash

Essential nutrients for women’s energy

Speaking of essential nutrients, let’s dive into the nutrients recommended for women for energy. Below are vitamins and minerals that support overall women’s health. Keep in mind that other nutrients like fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics are also important.

  • B vitamins
  • calcium
  • choline
  • folate/folic acid
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • Vitamin D
  • vitamin E

B vitamins

B vitamins are crucial for energy! We have talked about it before, but B vitamins are necessary to convert food into energy. Dietary sources of B vitamins include animal protein, offal, seafood, legumes, fortified cereals, avocados, and sweet potatoes.

calcium

calcium does much more than just build strong bones and teeth. get enough calcium helps keep your heart and muscles strong and may help reduce the risk of high blood pressure. As women, we should eat a variety of calcium-rich foods such as leafy greens, high-quality dairy products, non-GMO tofu, nuts, and chia seeds.

choline

Women need choline at all stages of life. However, choline is especially important during pregnancy. Getting enough choline during pregnancy is important as it helps your baby’s brain and spinal cord to develop properly. It can also protect your baby from neural tube defects. Eggs, seafood and liver are particularly high in choline.

folate / folic acid

Every woman needs folate every day unless she is pregnant or breastfeeding. If that’s the case, both require a higher amount. This vitamin helps keep red blood cells healthy and is important for preventing birth defects of the neural tube. Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 found in food, while folic acid is a synthetic form. Folic acid is found naturally in leafy greens, citrus fruits, berries, nuts and beans.

iron

Iron is one of the few nutrients that women (ages 14 to 50) require in higher amounts than men of the same age. This reduces your risk iron deficiency Anemia. This type of anemia can cause fatigue, weakness, and irritability. Excellent sources of iron are high-quality red meat, poultry, fish, beans, and leafy greens. If you rely on plant sources of iron, try combining them with vitamin C (peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, etc.). This helps with iron absorption.

magnesium

Magnesium helps regulate many different chemical reactions in a woman’s body. Including, maintain healthy blood sugar, keep muscles and nerves functioning properly and help a woman’s body to produce protein. It’s especially important to get enough magnesium if you’re planning to conceive. Dietary sources of magnesium include whole grains, seeds, nuts, and beans.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is another essential nutrient for women. Its meaning is enough, but it works in conjunction with calcium to promote healthy bones. Vitamin D is also involved in cell growth, immune function, and reducing inflammation. Rich sources of vitamin D include oily fish (salmon), mackerel, fortified milk, quality cheese and grass-fed eggs.

vitamin E

Last but not least, vitamin E. vitamin E is important for vision, reproduction and blood, brain and skin health. Vitamin E also has antioxidant properties. Therefore, this vitamin is essential for a healthy immune system. Nuts, seeds, beet greens, squash, sunflower seeds, and other vegetable oils are high in vitamin E.

picture of Suruchi Avasti

Essential vitamins are key to energy production

While Avoiding foods with inflammation and getting enough sleep are important for boosting energy, don’t overlook the power of vitamins for women. You can be a game changer. In addition to energizing foods, consider the women’s vitamins for energy. In many ways, they act as keys to unlocking a more energetic version of yourself.

Here’s the thing: All of our cells need nutrients to create energy. In addition to the need for macronutrients micronutrients are crucial. These include vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and water. They are specific fuel for our mitochondria. and mitochondria supply our body with energy in the truest sense of the word. As the power plants of our cells, they break down food molecules. Essentially, think of essential vitamins as the keys that open doors to energy production.

How vitamin deficiency acts like a bottleneck

Let’s say you’re not getting those essential nutrients, that’s something of a traffic bottleneck. A vitamin deficiency impedes one (or more) essential steps in energy conversion. And when that happens, everything moves a little slower. If you think this is happening in your body, a blood test to check your micronutrient levels is very revealing. If you’re lacking in a specific vitamin, it may be time to add in women’s vitamins for energy. Of course, always consult your doctor before adding any new vitamin or supplement to your routine.

Picture by Michelle Nash

How to choose quality vitamins and dietary supplements

Dietary supplements come in many forms (capsules, gummies, etc.) and are marketed as a simple and efficient way to boost your health. And that is true. However, buyers should beware: not all vitamins and dietary supplements are created equal. Also, eating a variety of foods is the best way to ensure you’re getting your vitamin and mineral needs.

Despite it, vitamins and dietary supplements act as insurance. Just look for brands that are transparent about their research and open about the quality of their ingredients. When it comes to women’s energy vitamins, we’ve done the hard work for you! As previously mentioned, consult your doctor before adding any new vitamin or supplement to your routine.

The best vitamins for women for energy

While a wide variety of products, quality protein, and healthy fats are important, multivitamins help ensure you’re getting the right nutrients. Below are the best vitamins for women for energy.

Each product is carefully curated by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

This post was originally published on November 12, 2021 and has since been updated.

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Lifestyle

What are your passenger rights in space?

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Travel Troubleshooter

If you’ve always dreamed of space flight Blue Origin, SpaceX or Virgo Galactic, then you may have been wondering about your passenger rights once you leave Earth. I also.

Passenger rights in space sound like a sci-fi problem. But it may not be as far away as it seems. Several recent polls have suggested this interest space tourism increases. A recent study by Northern Sky Research predicts that space tourism will be a $7.9 billion business by 2030.

In 2014, after a Virgin Galactic spaceplane crashed during a test flight, several passengers reportedly demanded — and received — a refund of their $250,000 tickets. But today, Virgin Galactic’s refund policy is nowhere to be found on their website. Neither is a ticket contract or mention of the company’s obligations to passengers.

I asked Virgin Galactic about their passenger rights policy. The company publishes the base prices for its space flight on its website. The total cost of a trip to space is $450,000, starting with a $150,000 fee, which includes a $25,000 non-refundable deposit. A spokeswoman said it has a “standard” refund policy and can give your money back if you decide not to fly.

“Excellent customer service is at the core of Virgin Galactic’s value proposition,” spokeswoman Christine Delargy told me in an email.

Space tourism experts say passenger rights are far from standard. No federal agency appears to be responsible for regulation customer service issues for space travel. Delays, cancellations and refunds are left to the space companies. But change is coming.

What rights do you have when you fly into space?

“It’s extremely complicated,” says Jane Reifert, a space tourism expert who runs tour operator Incredible Adventures. She says passenger rights are at the bottom of the list of concerns. The contracts that astronauts sign deal with matters of life and death.

“Passengers on space flights have to sign their lives — literally,” she says. “You have to recognize and accept the risk of death. Before flying, they must agree to a medical examination and some level of pre-flight training.

“To expect commercial space travel to be anything like commercial air travel would be a huge mistake,” she adds.

Which federal agency is responsible for regulating space tourism?

The Federal Aviation Administration is nominally responsible for regulating commercial space tourism through its Office of Commercial Space Transportation. The bureau is charged with safety, public health, and national security issues, but Congress barred the agency from regulating the safety of anyone on board with a moratorium that expires in October 2023.

The FAA Human Spaceflight website makes no mention of customer service or consumer rights, and a spokesman for the agency told me that it has no authority to direct customer service issues.

Currently, each commercial space company is free to set its own terms. And they do.

Space Perspective, a new space company that plans to offer high-altitude balloon flights by late 2024, is charging $125,000 per ticket for a six-hour round trip to the edge of space. Booking begins with a fully refundable $1,000 deposit. The contract does not deal with refunds for cancellation of a flight. However, the flight reservation form states that it offers no guarantee of commencing commercial operations of its vehicles within any time frame “or at all”.

“Transparency to our customers throughout the Space Perspective experience is paramount to us,” said Jane Poynter, Founder and Co-CEO of Space Perspective. She says her company will finalize the details of its terms and conditions for commercial flights by the end of 2024. It plans to include policies for canceled flights, last-minute opt-outs and passenger rebookings.

“Explorers can expect these to be posted on our site and handed to them individually long before they make their final payments,” she told me.

I asked Blue Origin and SpaceX if they have a publicly available contract that addresses issues like cancellations, delays, or denied boarding. They didn’t answer.

Which questions about passenger rights need to be answered

At some point, a regulator will have to take responsibility for passenger rights in space. This agency needs to review some fundamental issues related to space travel, including:

delays: What arrangements does a space carrier make for longer delays? Is it necessary to provide room and board while astronauts wait for the next launch window?

cancellations: If a commercial space company cancels a launch, does the space line have to rebook the passenger on the next available flight? Is a refund required or can ticket credit be offered? Should this credit expire after one year, e.g some credits for airline tickets do?

Refunds: When should a space company offer passengers a refund? How long is a reasonable start delay? Which part of the ticket should be refundable? For example, can a company add a non-refundable “membership fee” to its ticket price even if no services are provided?

How will the state regulate space travel in the future?

When it comes to passenger rights, the government could choose one of several paths. One way is to enforce an airline model used by the Department of Transportation. However, the department regulates some issues related to delays, cancellations and refunds it’s a light touch compared to Europe. More often, airlines set their customer service policies, and the transportation department requires them to adhere to those policies.

Regulators could also adopt the cruise model used by the Federal Maritime Commission. The FMC has been largely reticent when it comes to regulating customer service, though it recently revised its regulations to include new requirements for providing cruise passengers with refunds for canceled or delayed trips.

The government may also decide to create another agency to address the unique challenges of space travel and customer service. But the most likely scenario, at least in the short term, is no regulation at all. Space companies could set their own policies and change them whenever they wanted. But at some point, the long arm of federal regulators will inevitably catch up with them.

Even if there are no passenger rights, there is always insurance. That’s no joke. Last year, travel insurance company Battleface launched a civilian space insurance plan. It covers accidental death and permanent disability, but unfortunately lost baggage and delays are not part of the plan. Costs vary by company depending on your age and health, as well as the type of coverage you need.

I asked Battleface how many policies were sold. A representative said the company has seen “a lot of interest” but hasn’t written any space policies yet.

It’s still early in the game. There will be more space travelers soon – and with them the inevitable customer service complaints.

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