'Tis the season to be pampered, part one

Local spas serve up delicious new ways to de-stress

It's been a crazy, crisis-filled year and now the holidays are coming. What we all need is a surefire way to de-stress. Can you say spa?

This month we go local, with a trio of spas offering treatments good enough to eat. And they're not just for women. All three report that a third of their clients are men.

Let's start with the ultimate gift for your face: the 90-minute Caviar Facial at SK Sanctuary, a peaceful retreat on busy La Jolla Boulevard. From the moment you step in the door, it feels like a sanctuary, with a comforting sense of old world elegance.

Many of the therapists have been here a long time - a good sign - and lead esthetician Bobbi Hamilton definitely has magic hands. This is not your grandma's idea of a facial. It's a luxury foot, leg, hand, arm, chest, neck, shoulder and scalp treatment too.

The ingredients sound as luscious as they feel: neroli, spirulina and, of course, caviar - not the fish-eggs themselves, but their high-protein essence.

You'll be cleansed, toned, acu-lifted, oxygenated, nourished, massaged and thoroughly blissed-out. No wonder so many La Jollans come in for a facial just before a big event.

"It's my favorite treatment," said Sylvia Lopez, assistant spa director.

Splurge on the Caviar Facial, or take advantage of SK's pre-holiday discounts on Thai Massage or Wednesday and Friday evening specials on European Facials and Massages. More information: (858) 459-2400 or

www.sk-sanctuary.com

.

For fancy footwork, head inland to the Spa at Rancho Bernardo Inn, recently voted the #1 resort spa in North America by readers of Conde Nast Traveler. Lead manicurist Marae Wenzel thinks what makes the spa a winner is its level of service.

"We all try to go above and beyond to help guests feel pampered and well taken care of," Wenzel said.

The newest form of pampering here is the Made Fresh Daily treatment, designed to match the season. This month, it's a wine and clove pedicure, a kind of facial for your feet. After a clove oil footbath, a sea-salt scrub, a mask of red wine and clay, and a sole-soothing massage, comes the pedicure…along with a tray of appetizers and wine to help the rest of you relax.

Even football players come in for pedicures, Wenzel said, though they skip the polish.

"They need to take care of their feet too," Wenzel said.

Treatment rooms look out on the lovely landscaping, and you're welcome to sunbathe or swim in the saltwater pool. Next month Made Fresh Daily offers coffee and vanilla body treatments. More information: (858) 675-8471 or

www.ranchobernardoinn.com

For a total head-to-toe experience, try one of the Signature Massage Rituals at the Spa at L'Auberge Del Mar. Each treatment uses the products of a different region, like Morocco, Asia or Polynesia. As spa director Jeannette Handson said: "These are very stressful times and our clients want to get away from it all. So we've created a way to bring a piece of the world to your own backyard."

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