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A SUEPUR DESTINATION:

Amelia Island, Florida — Sun, Surf and Spa

by Susan Purdy

At the Spa at Amelia Island Plantation in Florida (www.aipfl.com), the greeting between guests is, Have you Watsued? Watsu, a combination of the words water and shiatsu, is the signature treatment of this newly opened spa, and said to be offered in very few places in the United States.

I couldnt wait to try it.

The spas 'Comfort Coordinator' brought me to the ladies locker room, where I put on my bathing suit. I then wandered over the wooden bridge to Watsu Island, passing a regal heron along the way, and was mentally decompressing from the world. Thats where I met therapist and Watsu Practitioner Jomi (short for Jo Marie) Trotter. Tiny, with dark hair and energized brown eyes reflecting her Native American Creek ancestry she was limping from a knee replacement.

As we entered the special 3 1/2 foot deep Watsu pool filled with warm water and sea salts, Jomi took my hands and explained the art of the treatment. She would float me in the pool, my neck nestled in the crook of her arm, and my face never submerging in the water.

I was so ready for this water ballet.

She placed floatation wraps around my calves to help keep my legs elevated and then cradled my head as I closed my eyes and relaxed. I matched my breathing to hers and soon lost track of all time.

Through various motions she guided my buoyant body around the pool stretching my spine, massaging my legs and body, while allowing the warm water to help ease tension and relieve soreness. Some guests said they felt the freedom of floating in a warm womb, while others said they now knew how angels flew. One man experienced a light show behind his closed lids, seeing the brightest hues to the palest pastels. I felt an emotional, physical,and psychological comfort that I had never felt with a 'hands-on' massage.

I trusted Jomi to watch over me and she did.

When the treatment was over, she told me I had spent 45 minutes in the pool, but it could easily have been and hour and 45 minutes. The treatment continued to work even out of the pool. We walked back across the bridge to a treatment room, where Jomi rubbed my body with aromatic oils, wrapped me in a blanket and left me to doze in my cocoon.

I am reliving this wonderful and natural experience just telling you about it.

After enjoying several spa treatments, I took an island hopper (golf cart) to explore the rest of the Plantation. Located just 29 miles from the Jacksonville airport, this 1,350-acre privately owned resort has something for everyone. Golf, pools, water sports, ocean, tennis, biking, horseback riding, shopping, fantastic dining and more.

Truthfully, I was too relaxed to do much more than tool around in my cart and see the sights.

I visited Walkers Landing in the marsh area of the resort to watch a half dozen little kids crab off the dock. Heather Dornbrock, the naturalist from the resorts Nature Center was busy tying chicken legs to string and showing the children how to wait for a nibble before slowly bringing the line up with a crab attached. Little hands tightly held the string, while the kids, sitting on their haunches, stared into the water, hoping to see a crab. Patience comes with age and those chicken legs were out of the water more than they were in. No crabs were caught that day. We did have a visit from Walter, the Great Egret, who hangs around looking for a handout.

A trip to Fernandina is a must, and the resort makes it easy with free transportation to this historic district, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. I stopped in at the Palace Saloon, Floridas oldest saloon, and sampled a Pirates Punch made with rum, gin and fruit juices. During Prohibition, the saloon became an ice-cream parlor, but reverted back as soon as it was legal to do so. The Beech Street Grill is the place to eat, and a tour of the magnificent Key West type of home, many now are B&Bs, will gave me the flavor of Old North Florida at its best.

If you stop in at the Amelia Island Museum of History, located in Fernandina, youll get the sexy story of the Islands namesake, General James Edward Oglethorpe, who named the island in honor of England's Princess Amelia Sophia Eleanora, daughter of King George II.

Born in 1710, Amelia was liberated through love. It was her cousin, Crown Prince of Prussia, the future Frederick the Great, who stole her heart. He was said to be intelligent, perceptive and sensitive, with large, sparkling gray eyes. Her love was not unrequited as Frederick was equally as in love with her. But true love never runs smooth, as they say, and Fredericks father, King Frederick William, did not approve of his son spurning military tutelage in favor of the arts and for using Latin, which the King expressly forbade.

Young Fred continued to defy the King, even attempting to escape by fleeing to England. He corresponded openly and regularly with Amelia and vowed to marry her. The king, having had enough of his rebellious son, put him in solitary confinement and threatened, If he kicks or rears again, he shall forfeit the succession to the crown, and even, according to circumstances, life itself.

His father won, Frederick married a German princess of his fathers choosing, and they remained childless and estranged, as Frederick assumed the throne. Poor Amelia never married, but she did earn a reputation for scorning appropriate behavior by playing cards, taking snuff, and hobnobbing with stable grooms.

It was said that she always drank her morning chocolate in a standing posture, and enjoyed discussing the diseases of horses with a crude male relish. With total disregard for the social mores of the day, she vented her rage at imperialistic and dictatorial meddling that had so painfully stunted her life. When she died, of natural causes at age 76, only 2 1/2 months after Fredericks death, a token of her love was found.

Hidden from view and attached to a chain around her neck was a miniature of Frederick.

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