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Travel

Warming Trend

Hot stones and a cool bar in Kennebunk Beach, Maine

The lounge and restaurant at the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk Beach is set in what was once a barn.

WHITE BARN INN

The lounge and restaurant at the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk Beach is set in what was once a barn.

KENNEBUNK BEACH, Maine — Is there any place more desolate than a New England beach colony in the dead of winter? A drive along the shore road in Kennebunk Beach reveals a setting worthy of a Stephen King novel. The handsome gray-shingled homes are shuttered and silent, their driveways unplowed. Waves pound the deserted beach, its sandy crystals buried under a crust of snow. Gusts of wind are spiked with a sprinkling of snowflakes. Even the seagulls have vanished.

All of this makes the Kennebunk River Stone Massage at the White Barn Inn’s spa such a pleasant surprise. If you’re looking for a lovely, decadent escape, this is it. You’ll be enveloped in a cocoon of warmth, stretched out on a heated massage table alongside a fireplace, as a therapist places hot black river stones on the chakra centers of your body. “The stones hold a moist heat, which allows the heat to penetrate deeper,” says massage therapist Cheryl Cole. Not to mention, it feels amazing. And the stones really are from the Kennebunk River, according to spa director Melanie Valliere Ryll.

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“I think this is the most relaxing massage we do,” says Ryll. “The heat from the stones helps to relieve tension. The heat is very soothing and offers the benefits of a deep, therapeutic massage without the heavy pressure of a deep tissue massage,” she explains.

Initially, the stones may feel a bit too hot as they touch the skin. But that sensation fades into a comfortable heat as the therapist rubs jojoba oil onto the skin (“its pH is the most like human body oils,” Cole says) and begins the massage, gently rubbing the warm stones into the muscles. The best part: when Cole placed tiny stones between our toes, on the lower back, and in each palm. And the head and neck massage was so delightful that we didn’t care if our hair was a crazy rooster do afterward.

The only logical thing to do post-massage is to visit the inn’s bar-restaurant — set in the most gussied-up barn you’ve ever seen — for the most belly-warming item on the menu: the lobster bisque, studded with chunks of Maine’s signature crustacean and crispy lobster wontons ($14). That, and a glass of white wine, could be dinner, or you could add an ultra-thin, share-able Margherita pizza with spring greens ($18). They make all their baked goods on site, and these carbs are worth it.

End result: You will feel warm, pampered, and indulged.

The White Barn Inn  37 Beach Ave., Kennebunk Beach, Maine, 207-967-2321, www.whitebarninn.com. Kennebunk

River Stone Massage, 60 minutes, $160;
90 minutes, $190.

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at bairwright@earthlink.net.
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