East of Eden

Japanese-style B&B along the Mediterranean gives an added dimension to R&R.

shizen spa 88 298 (photo credit: )
shizen spa 88 298
(photo credit: )
Entering the Shizen spa through the lobby of Herzliya's Daniel Hotel is like stepping into a parallel universe. The contrast between the hustle and bustle of the five-star giant - this year's venue of the annual Herzliya Conference - and the sudden hush of the "lifestyle spa resort" is striking. Along the lines of moving from the Middle East to the Far East in one easy step. But it's not just the sound of silence - due to the absence of cell phones and children - that sets it apart from the standard Israeli experience. Its smell, too, is a world apart. More reminiscent of a Japanese parlor than a check-in desk. Indeed, the dominant country of origin being emulated is Japan - "Shizen" is Japanese for "my truth" - and the cozy dining area just beyond the desk, doubles as a Japanese restaurant during the day, replete with bamboo and stone, which gives it an earthy, elegant look that blends in nicely with the view of the Mediterranean from the surrounding windows. To get to the rooms of the resort, which is actually two lower-level stories of the hotel cordoned off as its own contained unit, you descend in an elevator separate from that of the host hotel. The hallways leading to the rooms smell of incense, and are lined with candle-shaped lights, dimmed to suit the meditation-style music playing in the background. So far so good. Especially when we'd just come in out of the rain, after braving traffic on the Ayalon. And particularly as each of us had arrived with more than his fair share of stress. Friends had insisted that a soak, a steam and a Swedish massage at a place like this would be the equivalent of a several sessions with a shrink. Once inside, we figured there was something to that, particularly where prices are concerned. (A night in a double room with breakfast, 1/2-hour massage and free access to the pool and gym begins at NIS 999.) What we hadn't taken into account, however, was the immediate effect the room itself would have on our sense of well-being - an instant switching of gears from "wound up" to "unwound," without even stopping to take a sip of the courtesy bottle of red wine waiting for us on the table. One reason for this, we agreed, is the unconventional set-up of the furniture. The king-sized bed is at an angle, not up against the wall, with its headboard facing the terrace door, providing a picture window view of the sea. Lying on the bed watching the waves slapping against the shore makes the TV as invisible as it is pointless. But music from the stereo system is well appreciated. Since the massages that were included in the package were scheduled for the following day, we decided to check out the other facilities - a fully equipped gym overlooking an indoor pool and a communal Jacuzzi (bring your bathing suit and sneakers; robes embroidered "men" and "women" and slippers are provided). We would have done well, while we were there, to double-check our massage reservation. When making an appointment for treatments, guests are asked whether they want a male or a female staff member. Though we had specified our preference by phone, the spa was unable to grant our request when we arrived. So, if this is important to you, make sure to double-check the roster beforehand. Located a 10-minute walk from the restaurant-lined marina, and a 10-second walk from a number of other eating places, the advantage of this spa is that it offers the illusion of seclusion, without the disadvantage of being far away from urban amenities. The writers were guests of the Shizen Lifestyle Spa.