Simon Calder: The man who pays his way in the USA
Follow the latitude of luxury at 35 north
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Friday 30 November 2012
Indulge me, if you will, while I explain my favourite American indulgences. They are a long way from the elaborate and intimate spa experiences that Juliet Kinsman invokes: I prefer foliage to exfoliation, and like my hot springs natural. For the latter, the southern half of the USA is steamiest and best: the line of latitude 35 degrees north provides a succession of misty outdoor locations in which to plunge.
First stop on the latitude of luxury: Jemez Springs, north of Albuquerque in New Mexico. High in the hills, you can reflect that humanity has probably been easing its weary bones over the smooth rocks and into a steamy fissure for millennia. Head east along th 35th parallel to immerse yourself in some style in the town where Bill Clinton grew up: Hot Springs in Arkansas. Bathhouse Row comprises a string of grandiose sanatoria created in the 19th century to harness the healing powers of naturally warm water.
Further east, you reach Greenville, South Carolina – home to hotsprings.com, which turns out to be a manufacturer of indoor spas. But Greenville, the city previously known as Pleasantburg, happens to be the closest South Carolina city to the Appalachian Mountains – where more modest indulgence awaits. The 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail (below), is speckled with 250 lean-to shelters. They may have three walls rather than the more customary four, but are still several steps up from the tent.
Walk far enough north-east and you can wander off the "AT" along the Molly Stark Trail in Vermont. Celebrating a revolutionary war heroine, it threads through some of New England's finest scenery. As early as 1914, The New York Tribune promised that tourists could find "A first-class hotel at the end of each day's run" – these days, with hot water.
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