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OUTBOUND: Unwind at alluring Willows Lodge
by Ron Anders - SGN A&E Writer

I used to wonder if an overnight stay at a resort could be truly relaxing - could just one day away really make a difference? It seemed like a lot of fuss (packing, driving, etc.) for just 24 hours away. I needn't have worried. My stay at Willows Lodge (www.willowslodge.com), though brief, was about as soothing as it gets. A large (but cozy), beautifully appointed room, a friendly and helpful staff, dinner at one of the Northwest's most fabulous restaurants and a spa treatment to die for made this a day I would not soon forget. From Seattle, it's a short 30-minute jaunt to this nearby destination in Woodinville. Here's what to expect when you check into Willows Lodge.

ACCOMMODATIONS
Willows Lodge manages to strike a unique balance: a rustic feel (lots of wood, earth tones) and conveniences that are totally hi-tech. Our room (one of 84 in the Lodge, which range from about $199 to $349) had two queen-size beds, firm enough to give great support, along with lots of fluffy pillows calculated to give you a great night's rest. The large, quiet room (including the ceiling) was painted a very tranquil olive green. This mellow color, together with the wood blinds/shades, made me feel like I was enveloped in a forest. A small patio with table and chairs, surrounded by trees and bushes, was a nice touch. When I turned on the flatscreen TV (with all the premium channels and a good movie selection) and turned to the video guest directory, I saw that it said "Welcome Ron Anders" - now that's personalized service! A DVD player and radio tuner completed the entertainment setup. A fully loaded snack tray (including wine) and a stocked fridge gave me lots of choices for a snack.

For business travelers or those who just have to be plugged into the internet, there is both wired and wireless internet service in each room, as well as a large desk you can spread out on. If you're there in winter, the large fireplace will keep you toasty. All lights are on dimmers, so you can create whichever mood your heart desires. If you want to mellow out without even leaving your room, the bath (with ceramic floor tiles) is fully equipped to help. There is an oversize tub to luxuriate in, a shower with digital temperature control and huge, silky-soft bath towels to wrap yourself in. Molton Brown bath products are provided for your relaxation comfort. The lodge is also pet-friendly - evidenced by the presence of Ruthie, the cute hotel mascot, lying lazily on her bed in a corner of the lobby. If driving to the lodge, complimentary parking is available.

EAT/DRINK
Just a few steps from the Lodge is the Barking Frog, one of the premier restaurants in the Northwest. Willows Lodge's aura of quiet elegance extends to this fine eatery, which provides an ample dining space adorned in a mild color palate and a snuggly, crackling fireplace. The attentive and knowledgeable waiter selected a smashing dry red wine to start off my meal. I began with the delectable sweet/tart Baby Arugula Salad with apple, hazelnuts, goat cheese and sherry vinaigrette. For the main course, The Anderson Ranch Lamb Shank was about as good as it gets - tender and juicy. The lamb came with a fall squash crépinette (small, flat, sautéed cake) and creamy farro (delicious wheat grain). Dessert was an elegant version of that old standard - s'mores: a crunchy square of graham cracker topped by browned meringue with ice cream and a sugar-spun twig. Check out the Barking Frog for breakfast, lunch and brunch as well - casual attire, such as fine denims or khakis and sweaters or button-downs, are encouraged. Off the Lodge lobby is Fireside Cellars, offering wine tastings, cocktails and delicious small plates. Try the garlic fries - they set a new standard!

RELAX
The Spa at Willows Lodge, located in an adjacent building, treated me like royalty. This was my first visit to a spa - and it made me a convert for life, especially after a 90-minute facial. My aesthetician was highly skilled and very knowledgeable about holistic body care. I felt I was (literally) in very good hands. My skin was positively glowing after the treatment. The regimen also included some upper body massage, which dissolved the last bit of tension left in my body. The Spa has a very quiet, calming atmosphere that took me far away from the hustle-bustle of my usual hectic schedule. It offers a variety of facials, massage treatments and luxury packages, and a hot tub nestled between the spa and lodge further helps to reduce those layers of stress.

 

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