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New Girl in Town: On Nemacolin and Falling Rock

At Pop City, we celebrate all things good about our region, from the innovative to the creative to the sublime. The five-star Falling Rock at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort falls into that last category. Built in 2004 and calling to mind nearby Frank Lloyd Wright properties, the 42-room resort offers every imaginable amenity, from a ten-choice pillow menu to a bathtub big enough for a swim. We recently booked a room, bonded with our 24/7 butler and enjoyed a short but memorable visit, returning utterly spoiled.

TC:  Here's a question I wish I heard more often: "Is the temperature, music and lighting okay with you?"  

The answer was an emphatic yes as I luxuriated in my hot stone massage at the Woodlands Spa at Nemacolin. On the heated table, I rested on half a dozen smooth stones warmed to a perfect temp. There were hot stones lined up vertically on my stomach, a hot stone resting lightly on each of my open palms and a single stone perched precariously on my forehead. (It later fell with a horrendous clatter). Amanda, my massage therapist, even placed hot pebbles in between my toes.  I concentrated on the sensation:  the soothing heat , the comforting weight, the melodic clinking sound they made in Amanda's hands. It was instant, deep relaxation and she had yet to start the mind-melting massage.   I was calm, focused and deeply still until the moment vaporized when a song suddenly and rudely popped into my head, Bob Dylan's scratchy voice and the lyrics: "Everybody must get stoned."

Elaine:  No such song for me! My 80-minute spa treatment, the Red Flower Japan Body Ritual, went like this:  seaweed scrub, ginger exfoliant (think sandblasting) and buffing followed by a pressure-point Shiatsu massage.  Front and back, top to bottom.  After what seemed like forever, my therapist asked me to shower it all off so I thanked him for a lovely treatment.  He replied "Oh no, there's still so much more!"  Yowza!  Now that's what I gotta get hubby to say to me-- all the time.

And hey, TC, you got game when it comes to golf.  The Links Course suits you to a T.

TC:  The links are the big draw at Nemacolin and with what little we played, thanks for the props, Annie Oakley. Turns out New Girl found her new calling at the Shooting Academy. Give this woman a 28-gauge shotgun and she finds her inner Dick Cheney. It's loud, it's thrilling, it's action-packed and she loved it all!

Elaine:  I am down with this shooting thing.  What a blast! Okay, getting carried away here (and not like Cheney's hunting buddy).  But it was a pretty mellow vibe at Falling Rock's Aqueous, wasn't it?  Amazing view from our table at dinner.  And what was that on your dinner plate?  Pea shoots?  They're everywhere these days.   (Darn, did I really say "shoot" again?) I have never been to a resort where every meal at every dining establishment was nearly perfect.  I'm jonesin' for the basil pesto flatbread at Elements Cafe at the Spa, chock full of juicy Roma tomatoes and sweet-as-can-be asparagus and enveloped in gooey mozzarella. And the Philly Cheese Steak Wrap served poolside at Falling Rock would make our cross-state rivals wince (note to Phillly phanatics:  it's quality ingredients that make the diff).

So, which was the piece de resistance, mon cherie?  Was it the ten-pillow menu or the seven-bath menu at Falling Rock?

TC: I like Nemacolin but I love Falling Rock. And I got a kick out of the 10-setting shower blasting water from three jets and the flower-strewn, candlelit, 210-gallon bath they drew for me. And I loved the small touches: the two fat birds (the Nemacolin icon) made of premium chocolate (hey, two birds, one stone) and the warm cookies and milk delivered after dinner. Although, time for New Girl to fess up: she asked for her cookies to be delivered before dinner.

Elaine:  You know my motto:  life is short, eat dessert first.  And it was worth it since I got to take in the sunset over the golf course from my picture-windowed room.  Believe it or not, I had the thousand-channel TV tuned to "Soft Hits" and suddenly Gino Vannelli's "I Just Wanna Stop" came on, and all I could think was "I do not wanna stop, this is too perfect."  Okay, time for you to fess up, girlfriend:  did you really count the 1,200 threads in the sheets?  You swore you would.

TC:  Who had time? Yet I couldn't get to sleep thinking about that butler due in the a.m. He knocked gently and precisely at 7 then entered with coffee, fresh-squeezed OJ, two newspapers and a yogurt/berry/cereal parfait.  "Good morning, " he said softly. "Can I open the curtains? A beautiful day awaits you! High in the low 70s with some sun. Enjoy."  How could you not?

Elaine:  The amazing thing about Falling Rock is that you don't know whether you want to plant yourself firmly in the beautiful and modern hotel (think Frank Lloyd Wright) or get out and do, oh, one of a hundred different (and really fun) things.  I think we did both pretty well.  We worked it, girlfriend!

TC:  Are you kidding? I was totally stressed out by the many choices. Pilates or swimming? Breakfast in bed or on the beautiful terrace overlooking Mystic Rock? Hiking in the woods or a relaxing in the steam room at the spa? Not to mention the decisions awaiting in the room. I tried out all four pillows on my bed.  But one complaint: my Internet connection was quite weak. Even my cell phone signal was fading. I'm thinking five stars? How about five bars? They offered to move me to a room closer to the modem but since we were only there one night, I declined. If you're wi-fi-dependent like me, ask for a room with a good signal.

Elaine:  Didn't you see the "Night Butler" number on speed dial?  I almost used it!  I'm sure he had a spare iPhone with your name on it.

TC: Ok, how embarrassing is this? I had to call the butler at 11:30 p.m. to help me turn out the lights.  When I hit one switch they all went out  along with the reading light which wouldn't go on again.  I felt like I was six years old again when he came in to instruct me. "No problem!" he said. "It's very confusing."  Nemacolin is not a one-night affair. It takes that long to figure out how to use the lighting and the shower controls and to even begin to adapt to the decadent pampering. Can you ever get used to it? I'm thinking yes.

Elaine:  Okay, I see the words "return visit" forming in your mind-melt.  And how  lucky are we to have this gem so close to home.  While it's tough for folks to pull the trigger (uh-oh, there I go again) on a summer vacation this year, the deals around are probably the best we'll see for years. The three-, four- or five-night "Nemacolin Summer Experience" is offered resort-wide and includes a substantial daily credit toward dining, spa or a whole host of activities.  The pricing is right in line with all-inclusive packages at similar resorts and is available through November, 2009. My advice? See you there!

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Elaine Labalme, aka New Girl in Town, writes frequently for Pop City about her explorations throughout Pittsburgh and in this case, beyond. Email her here.

Photographs copyright Tracy Certo


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