Soaking in Salt: A new kind of spa

This past weekend we got the most amount of snow I’ve seen in Charlottesville all winter and not many were out on Saturday, but Michal’s four-wheel drive did well on the roads so we thought we’d try out a Living Social deal we found for a flotation center near the Downtown Mall.

Aqua Float is a totally different kind of spa or wellness center than Michal and I have ever visited – more focused on individual meditation and healing rather than a social experience we could share with each other and friends.  We spent 90 minutes in individual rooms within enclosed tanks, each boasting more than 800 pounds of saltwater with a little ambient lighting.

We took a tour of the facility before getting enclosed in our individual tanks.

When I first saw our individual tanks, they reminded me of that moment when Matt Damon woke up in the film Interstellar.

First impressions:

  • It looks like a space ship or a device from some sci-fi, futuristic film.
  • I need to be extra careful not to accidentally rub my eyes with salt as it will burn.
  • I will probably get bored, but this is supposed to be healing so I’m going with the flow.


  • I fell asleep half-way through and woke up with a start as it took me a minute to re-orient myself. I also started to feel a bit claustrophobic so I opened the lid of tank a bit.
  • I was incredibly thirsty – downing two water bottles immediately.
  • After showering off all the salt, my skin felt amazingly smooth and I was glowing.
  • When Michal and I met up in the lounge, we helped ourselves to complimentary fruit, lemon-infused water and tea while reading a few materials on the benefits of floating, as well as journaling/doodling. This time helped with extending the relaxation experience and alleviated my dehydration.
  • I felt a boost in my mood and energy level that lasted me through the day.

Would I do it again?

Probably not unless there is another LivingSocial deal – We paid $29 each for what normally costs $60 each. Also – the length of the session seemed a bit too long to me as I did get a bit stir-crazy in that tank.

However, I like finding unique, local spots like this and will now consider doing my Epsom salt baths at home as I love the way my skin feels afterward. This was also a very calming, restorative experience that I would recommend if you’re having a stressful or anxious week, as it truly helped me to quiet my mind.

Quotes from the website and brochures that stood out:

“Being a float tank is like relaxing in outer space.”

“Trust the water.” – relating to letting your head fall back and your neck relax, as that isn’t our natural inclination when in deep water (FYI – I prefer using the neck pillow for extra support.)

“No pathogenic organisms can survive salt concentrations above 10 percent.” – helped in making me feel reassured that the water is clean, plus there is an intense filtration system and everything in the facility is spotless, well –maintained and soothing

Have you ever tried a floatation center or are you interested? The employees at the one we visited in Charlottesville told us the majority in the U.S. are out on the West Coast.


Creative expression takes on new forms in Charlottesville

I’d consider myself pretty crafty more than artsy.

Example of “Crafts”


Back in the Midwest, I loved going to scrapbook stores with friends (yes, they were also in their mid-20s like me) for lock-in nights where we’d spend hours working on piecing together the perfect pages with mementos, photos and doodads like stickers, borders and cut-outs. People have joked that I’m like Ms. Frizzle because I have a cart of items that resembles an elementary school teacher’s closet. (Think: hot glue guns, holiday-themed cardstock, iron-on letters, etc.)

A couple friends even threw me a scrapbook-themed bridal shower in the Chicago area, in which each guest created a page as an activity.

But now that I’m in a new area, I thought I’d stretch my creativity and try more “hip” projects. (Plus, there don’t seem to be any scrapbook stores around…) I found some pretty sweet LivingSocial deals for easy art lessons that were BYOB, which allowed for some quality bonding time with my Darden partners.


Tips & Tricks

Painting: I was grateful that the instructors at Wine & Design penciled in the perspective of the winding trail in the landscape that we were painting because that would have taken me, a less experienced painter (I took one intro. class in high school), way too long to figure out. I also liked being able to eat, drink, chat and paint at a leisurely pace. Lastly, I appreciated how the business granted the Darden Partners Association a discount code for future visits, regardless of whether we were in an organized group meeting vs. going out on a date night with our student-significant other.

Glass Art: As for The Glass Palette, I was a bit intimidated as I have never worked with this medium. But the instructors again made it super easy by breaking the different colored glass into pieces beforehand. We just had to arrange them into patterns by gluing pieces on to tiles, and the instructors later put them into the kiln to make into bowls. If we wanted to get complicated, we had tools at our disposal to cut up the glass even more, but it wasn’t necessary. With this experience, definitely eat beforehand as it’s unsafe to have food near all the glass and glue.

Would you consider yourself “artsy” or “crafty”?

New Year’s Resolutions with a Charlottesville Twist

Although I’m not into making New Year’s Resolutions, I am acting as a sort of accountability partner for others. From sustainable shopping and low-carb cooking to hiking and indoor rock climbing, the photo collage highlights some healthy moments in and around Cville during the month of January.

In an effort to support my friends and my husband in keeping their New Year’s Resolutions, I’m showcasing a few healthy choices we’ve made together.

Cutting calories

Charlottesville is definitely zeroed into the organic, local, farm-to-table trend.

I first noticed this last semester when I was searching for a grocery delivery service, as I was used to subscribing to Peapod in Chicagoland. Relay Foods is instead available here, focusing on sustainable options. (It also helps to know that the company’s founder is a Darden alumnus.)

Another venue for obtaining similar products while also getting to meet the farmers, bakers, chefs and artisans who created these items is the Charlottesville City Market. I missed my opportunity for this farmer’s market during the summer and fall, but a friend in the DPA blogged about her experience earlier this school year, so now I’m anticipating trying it out some day.

However, in the dead of winter, I have found an indoor version of the farmer’s market in Cville. A couple weekends ago, I went on a shopping spree and bought free range meat like ground beef, bacon and pork sausage from Free Union Grass Farm, along with cage free eggs and fresh cilantro from Hawk Hollow Farm. I was excited to see such quality products at an affordable cost and so close to home. Although this market is smaller and inevitably has less to offer than the city market during the warmer months, it’s at least an option through the off-season.

When I spontaneously purchase a bunch of random ingredients such as the list above, I tend to Google a recipe or search on Pinterest with the list. The night after I visited this market, my husband and I made black bean meatballs with cilantro yogurt sauce as well as the Paleo version of Scotch eggs for a date night. Both dishes highlighted the tender, flavorful meat very well and didn’t leave us feeling heavy.

Focusing on fitness

One of my favorite pastimes with my husband (other than eating yummy food) is hiking, especially in this area. We’ve enjoyed hiking Humpback Rocks in the summer and Old Rag Mountain in the fall. And because we’re now living in a location that is far enough away from the Polar Vortex, we can luckily hike in the winter.

Based on a Darden SY suggestion, we did the 8-mile hike up to Bear Church Rock.  As a Midwest native, it was incredible to see areas so warm from the sun (e.g. near the Rapidan River, in certain open areas in the woods) where both snow and greenery co-exist on the path.

We enjoyed this beautiful, changing, somewhat unpredictable scenery. The most scenic part of the hike was the Canopy of Mountain Laurel: I loved walking under the arch, shaded by the overhanging trees, and over the snow-covered trail with its slight incline.

This was also the quietest and most peaceful hike we’ve done in the Charlottesville area, in stark contrast to Old Rag in the fall: We only saw a handful people during the four hours that we were walking.

Beware: This is a strenuous, long stretch of hiking that made my legs sore for three days after.

If you’d rather stay inside, another fun fitness idea is to do indoor rock climbing. I bought a LivingSocial deal with a group of DPA members to try out Rocky Top near the Downtown Mall of Charlottesville.

It was a bit of a tight space compared to my prior experience in Ann Arbor, Mich. at Planet Rock with my husband and in-laws. But we were able to squeeze in with our reserved lessons for a Friday night, which I recommend doing if you are with a big group during a similar busy time.

Not only was our official instructor was patient, but my two expert climber friends helped me out with tips they’ve gathered over the years. (They were bouldering on their own, while novices like me and a couple others got our lessons.) I’ve actually built enough confidence to consider venturing outside for some authentic rock climbing when the weather gets nicer.

Other ideas on where to find healthy food or unique workouts in the area? Please share!