Land of plenty

Canaan Spa has much to offer for a girls' weekend away.

canaan spa 248 88 (photo credit: )
canaan spa 248 88
(photo credit: )
With the age of feminism and bra-burning over, women having been successfully integrated into the fast lane of modern life, focus on the bond of sisterhood seems to have been pushed aside, apart from rituals such as bachelorette parties and baby showers.
It seemed a shame, and the perfect solution, I had recently decided, was a mini-break at a spa.
A 24-hour stay at Safed's Canaan Spa Hotel with my best girlfriend last week was a welcome break from the daily grind. This five-star luxury resort in the North is the perfect place for girls to be girls, though couples and mixed groups of friends should love it as well.
Upon entering the lobby, I was struck by the effort made to appeal to all of the senses. The complex is tastefully decorated, with classy artwork on every wall - some with price-tags available for purchase. A smell of lavender pervades all of the hotel halls for an instantly relaxing effect, and soft rock music plays from speakers both inside and outside on the sprawling decks. The comfortable couches bunched around wooden coffee tables in the lobby are a great place to dump your bags and enjoy a fresh tea or sahlab before checking in and going up to your room.
In line with the rest of the hotel, the rooms are pleasantly decorated, spacious and well-equipped, with vanilla candles and potpourri in the bathroom, a full mini-bar, tea and coffee facilities, and cable television. Our seventh-floor balcony, though too small even for a table and two chairs, looked out over tennis courts and lush red and green trees, with a beautiful view of Mount Meron on a clear day. A fresh fruit platter delivered to our room was another lovely touch. A note: make sure to let the hotel know if you're coming with your girlfriends, so that one of you doesn't end up drowning in the men's size robe and slippers!
For my friend and me, our time at Canaan was all about the food and the spa facilities.
Let me first say this: don't expect to lose weight at Canaan. In fact, I'd recommend bringing some pants with a stretchy waistband.
We've all seen the amazing buffets Israeli hotels are capable of putting together, but this one was definitely a cut above the rest. Our first meal upon arrival was lunch, and we entered the light, airy dining room to find a massive table in the middle of the room covered with cheeses, salads, tofu stir-fry, gnocchi, stuffed cabbages, and, naturally, a humous section. Along one wall was a selection of breads, potentially enough to feed an army for a month, while at the other end of the room, manning a station dominated by a massive wok, a chef preparing ravioli, zucchini and eggplant dishes, served on slabs of Bulgarian cheese with cream and tomato based sauces. All meals at the hotel are kosher.
We couldn't move for a few hours after our first culinary experience at Canaan, so it worked out well that after lunchtime came spa time.
Downstairs, at the spa, a variety of eastern and western options are available, including facials, manicures, Thai massage, hot stone treatments and body scrubs. I donned the plush white robe and slippers and arrived for my Swedish massage to find a beautiful room with herbal teas and fresh juices while I waited. The massage itself was relaxing and gentle, and served as the perfect prelude for a round of the spa facilities.
The highlight for us was the Turkish bath room, which was spacious and steamy, with a classic domed roof and tiled walls. We also tried out the wet and dry saunas and the Jacuzzi, which, though more traditional, were well maintained and relaxing. Less relevant to the chilly December afternoon was the indoor lap pool, though had it been a little hotter outside we would have enjoyed lying down with a book on one of the wooden deck chairs laid out around the area.
After freshening up back in our rooms, where impressive water pressure and a massaging shower-head awaited, we headed down for what was meant to be one of the highlights of our stay: the seven-course set menu in one of the banquet rooms. Ironically, it was the only real disappointment of the trip, though to be fair, it wasn't for want of trying. Basically I think it all boils down to the fact that Westerners expect a different level of service than Israelis are used to providing.
For a group of 30 people around a large table, one waiter and one server is simply not enough. In addition, owing to a failure of table positioning, I was served each course first, while my friend received her portion last, so I was left trying to work out whether to wait 15 minutes and let my food go cold, or eat and leave her watching me. Just a simple matter of timing, but it definitely affected our enjoyment of the dining experience.
Having said that, the food was certainly above as is often the case, they turned out to be little more than a tasty series of potato and vegetable combinations. Red and white wine was served throughout the evening, and Arabic coffee in traditional glasses finished off the meal.
All in all, if you have a choice, I'd recommend going for the buffet, unless you don't mind spending three hours eating dinner without having a say in what you eat.
Breakfast in the main dining hall the next morning was amazing, and I'm not exaggerating when I say I didn't think about food again until the following evening. The selection of almost 30 different cheeses blew my mind, as did the slab of honeycomb dripping onto a tray, an even more extensive selection of breads than at lunch the previous day, and omelets and espresso made to order.
After breakfast, we rolled ourselves up to a third-floor room where we sampled a guided imagery class, one of the many workshops that run at the hotel throughout the week. Granted, this kind of thing isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it certainly is mine, and I thought the concept, the teacher, and the setup of the room fitted perfectly with the theme of the hotel.
For a girls' weekend away, I honestly don't think it can get much better than Canaan. Not surprisingly, it is on the pricey side, but check out the winter and midweek deals for more affordable options. Or do what I'm planning to do - get your family to take you up there next time they visit!
The writer was a guest of the Canaan Spa Hotel.

During January, Canaan's house chef, Tamir Yehuda, will be hosting a series of top-tier culinary artists, including Sahar Refaeli, Ronen Dovrat-Bloch, Miki Shemo and Charlie Fadida. For details call (04) 669-3000 or visit