I felt as though I were climbing into a mummy’s sarcophagus as I settled into the empty concrete tub, but I figured that if Mark Twain could do it, so could I: take the waters at Vichy Springs near Ukiah, Calif. I opened the spigot and relaxed, the naturally carbonated mineral water fizzing around me like warm Perrier. As I gazed at the oaks and redwoods, some of which have been around since the spa resort opened in 1854, I realized that it was so quiet I could hear bees buzzing. It amazed me that this bucolic, 700-acre retreat still exists, a no-frills refuge for people seeking respite from aches, pains and stress. “Quietude” is what they call it here. I quietly — and happily — embraced it. Tab for two: $395 per night for room, breakfast and mineral baths; $100 per day for food ; plus airfare to Santa Rosa, rental car and taxes.
Vichy Springs Resort has 17 motel-style rooms that start at $255 a night in winter months, but my husband, Paul, and I splurged on a cozy one-bedroom cottage with simple country-style furnishings and a kitchen. After soaking in the resort’s warm mineral-water tubs, I found it refreshing to plunge into the cool mineral water of its Olympic-size swimming pool. At dusk, we followed a creek into the hills, surprising a family of black-tailed deer.
After enjoying a takeout dinner on our porch one night, the next night we drove 15 minutes into Ukiah and dined at Cultivo. This casual-chic restaurant offers a multitude of beers on tap, local Mendocino wines and menu items that include wood-fired pizzas, fresh oysters and a juicy heritage pork chop with peach chutney.
Our server at Cultivo recommended lunch at Jyun Kang Vegetarian Restaurant, a local favorite. Paul and I expected a hole in the wall but instead found ourselves driving a few miles east of Ukiah and through a golden arched gateway that evoked ancient China. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, named for the Oscar-sized golden Buddhas lining the prayer hall, is the largest Buddhist monastery, university and meditation center in the U.S. We observed prayer rituals, roamed the 480-acre wooded campus, then dined on sweet-and-sour protein balls and other veggie delicacies in the buzzing restaurant. Surprising and fun, even for non-vegetarians.
THE LESSON LEARNED
Ukiah’s Grace Hudson Museum features paintings of indigenous Pomo people by Grace Carpenter Hudson, a local artist who was nationally known in the early 20th century. It also has an impressive array of intricately woven Pomo baskets that were collected by her husband, physician and ethnologist John W. Hudson. A tour of their craftsman bungalow, where they lived and worked, gave us insight into small-town life 100 years ago in rural Mendocino County.
Vichy Springs Resort, 2605 Vichy Springs Road, Ukiah, Calif.;
Cultivo Restaurant, 108 W. Standley St., Ukiah, Calif.; (707) 462-7007
City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, 4951 Bodhi Way, Ukiah, Calif.;
Jyun Kang Vegetarian Restaurant. Cash only; closed Tuesdays.
Grace Hudson Museum & Sun House, 431 S. Main St., Ukiah, Calif.; (707) 467-2836. Open Wednesdays-Sundays.