Escape to Louisiana's Nest Spa and Retreat


Take your best friend, your sister, someone special with you. This is a girls' respite to share and savor. For me, a trip to this intriguing spa was a rare mother-daughter outing. After all the years Mom took me to have my tresses coiffed for ballet recitals and proms, I grabbed this chance to treat her.

Though she's been a regular at her beauty salon for years (um, decades), this whole spa trend is new. For her generation, a hairdo is a necessity; a massage or facial is frivolous. I vowed to bear her guilt as I whisked her to The Nest Spa and Retreat, just outside Alexandria, Louisiana.

It's the "and Retreat" that sets this one apart. The outside of this spa soothes as much as the inside. It sits on 252 acres of land blessed by The Nature Conservancy for its notable forests and swamp. You're encouraged to wander (before or after your pampering treatment), strolling the boardwalk or trails, clearing your mind, and pondering two dozen bronze and steel sculptures sprinkled throughout the grounds. (Most come from the hands and imagination of resident sculptor Russell Whiting.) Owner Joan McLure links her love of the outdoors and the arts with her philosophy of well-being and relaxation.

You'll quickly understand why it's called The Nest Spa and Retreat. This place in the trees cradles you in careless comfort, somewhere between earth and sky. We stepped into the octagonal, wood-sided building far off the road, sat at the reception desk and sipped lemony water from champagne flutes. Still hesitant for anything too indulgent, Mom had chosen a manicure while I opted for a spoiling foot massage. I reminded her to have fun as we glided to our different treatment rooms, which were a green as serene and soft as spring rain.

As I lay snuggled under covers while my exposed tootsies were lavished with lotion and kneading, barely hearing the lullaby of a small fountain and low, surreal music, I hoped Mom was unwound and purring. I'd know soon when we rejoined for lunch in the tiny, private tearoom. We settled in at the table draped to the floor in a lilac-and-sage hydrangea print and were left alone with pastry pinwheels and tuna salad, pretty plates and frilly doilies, goblets of iced tea and not-too-dainty slices of cheesecake. "Well?" I asked eagerly.

She smiled lazily, rolled her eyes luxuriously, and held out her nails for display. She reported that her room also was quiet, dim, and enfolding, with subtle music. "There were rose petals strewn in my path," she marveled. An accomplished rose gardener, she relished this touch above all others. This was quite different from her last manicure years (um, decades) ago in a fluorescent salon with loud dryers, busy toddlers, and animated recounts of gallbladder surgery. By the end of our visit to The Nest Spa and Retreat, she was hardly feeling guilty, just frivolous...and loving it. So will you.

The Nest Spa and Retreat: U.S. 165 South, Woodworth, LA 71485; (318) 443-3322. Prices: spa treatments $10-$99; packages $119-$299; lunch $10.

This article is from the September 2001 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.