High tea in the Andes Mountains? That sounds highly unlikely! Unlikely, yes, but not impossible. One fine Thursday, we visited La Mirage Garden Hotel & Spa in Cotacachi for their weekly tea. La Mirage is a 5-star hotel on the grounds of a 200-year-old Andean hacienda. Their website is worth perusing, so you can see the photos of their beautiful offerings.
Afternoon tea takes place in the Pandora Lounge. It is decorated with carved furniture, Victorian paintings, art nouveau lamps, knick-knacks and even a carousel horse. Servers bring course after course of fine tea, coffee, crustless sandwiches, and one dessert after another. Gary and I were amazed every time another course was delivered on a silver platter. We spent several hours lounging, eating, then walking the lawns to watch the many peacocks strolling and displaying their feathers. All this cost us $20 – a pittance in the US, but a fortune in Ecuador.
A predominant feature of La Mirage is their world-class spa. After our tea, their Spa Manager noticed us and offered us a tour of the spa. It literally left me breathless with surprise and delight, to see the beauty they have created! They have a variety of rooms for different types of services, each decorated and fragranced to create a specific ambiance. There’s a Lavender room, in all purples, with bouquets of fragrant lavender. The Greek room has Grecian urns and decor, the Egyptian room has a mural of Egyptian art and astonishing sculptures, the swimming pool room has draped cabanas, sculptures and a bas-relief carving of figures in tunics. There’s a special room for the shamanic “limpias” or cleansing treatments and more…each room is its own world.
Gary and I made an uncharacteristic decision to splurge on our last day in Ecuador, and have a couples massage at La Mirage. Booking one spa treatment gives permission to use all the facilities. First, we dipped into a small pool filled with rose petals and rose essential oil. We soaked for a while before being taken to our side-by-side massage tables. The massage treatment included being wrapped in a far-infra-red mat. The therapeutic qualities of far infrared rays are: warms the body, stimulates the immune system, reduces pain and stiffness, causes the cells to detoxify, and burns calories. Although I didn’t know until afterward what the mat was, it felt heavenly to lie wrapped up in it.
Our two massage therapists were highly skilled. We both felt like a million dollars afterward. Next, we sat in a warm jacuzzi in a windowed alcove, looking out on the garden. The jacuzzi was surrounded by bowls of large roses. I floated a few in our jacuzzi and felt deeply relaxed. Through the window, we saw the spa manager gather an armful of eucalyptus branches from the garden. When we got to the steam room, we found that she’d put the eucalyptus in the water, so we would inhale the fresh healing herbal steam into our lungs. It’s a wonderful decongestant and skin soother, as well as a killer of airborne viruses and bacteria.
By the time the whole day of treatments was over, my muscles felt relaxed, the clicking kinks in my neck and shoulders were gone, and I felt fully refreshed.
It was uplifting to spend two different afternoons outside of the poverty zone and in the realm of beauty and health. For those who consider retiring in Ecuador, it’s good to know that every town and city has areas of simplicity and areas of elegance. We have truly enjoyed both.