Most people have out-of-date ideas about travel agents, that we get free airline tickets and hotel stays, that we travel constantly, that we are showered with travel perks. Unfortunately, the reality is that most hotels and airlines treat travel agents just like they treat everyone else and travel agent not being the highest paid job, I know I'm lucky if I can afford to fly to Minnesota once a year to visit my family. However, I was fortunate enough to be hosted on a rare travel agent familiarization trip to South Beach and let me tell you, after the pampering I received there, it is clear that this is the way I am meant to live my life. We were hosted in the lap of luxury by the Canyon Ranch Miami Beach and also the W South Beach, with transportation generously provided by American Airlines.
Canyon Ranch began its life as the Carillon Hotel, which sat shuttered for over 10 years until it was re-stored to what it is today, an elegant retreat with touches of nature everywhere you look - like the art piece running the length of the ceiling in the lobby, composed of smooth tree limbs and thin slices of different colored geodes.
I have to admit I could easily live in the suite I was given, the kitchen is far nicer than the one I have in my own home, with top-of-the-line appliances and a gorgeous tiled backsplash the color of the sea I could view from the living room.
The bathroom may have been my favorite part with it's pearly inlaid mosaic floor, huge shower, and my favorite part, the deepest soaking tub I have ever seen. I am usually not a bath person, but that tub called to me, especially after I had taken a few of the incredible exercise classes offered there. There is nothing that will get your muscles working like Buff Ballet Booty. It also helps that they have a 70,000 square foot spa with experts who can massage your cares away. I spent many an hour going from the thermal loungers to the HydroSpa to the experiential rain showers, I even popped into the Igloo a time or two.
I will admit that I was concerned about the spa food. I had visions of rabbit food and wheatgrass shots, but instead I was served incredibly flavorful, beautifully presented food. They even had a full bar! One of the most unusual things I tried were the artichoke "fries" - strips of artichoke bottoms, covered in breadcrumbs and baked until they are a crispy satisfying treat, with ketchup to dip them in. Breakfasts were especially good, with some of the best pancakes I've ever had, and really interesting add-ins if you wanted to create your own omelet.
Unfortunately our stay at the Canyon Ranch had to come to an end, but fortunately, we were just headed down the road to the lovely W South Beach, where every room has a balcony and a spectacular sea view. I loved being greeted by these guys when we first drove up to the hotel.
Even though my room wasn't ready when I arrived, I was so impressed by the helpfulness of the front desk staff who quickly corralled my luggage and took my cellphone number to call me as soon as my room was ready. It was worth the wait, I had the most incredible view.
I was lucky enough to enjoy several meals at Solea, although I did not get to try the famed Mr. Chow. After my days of virtuous spa cuisine, I felt justified at diving into a plate of fried potatoes with Romesco sauce.
I was careful to save room for one of their incredibly elegant desserts - the chocolate mousse.
After all that luxury, returning back to my regular life was not the easiest thing I've ever done, but it's like what they say about love and loss, it's better to have experienced luxury for even such a short time, than to never experience it at all. I would highly recommend both of these properties and hope that I will be able to make it back there myself sometime soon.