A part of me always wanted to know what happens inside a health spa – in the summer months you get glimpses of guests in white towelling robes drifting about inside or out, in some imagined state of euphoria ….. or that’s how it seems. Give it a go, huh!
So we looked at the website of a well-known UK brand, booked an overnight stay, essentially 26 hours …… and went earlier this month. As we neared our destination, the glare from the low, late afternoon sun meant that trying to find the right road at the crossroads in the nearest village, through the dirt smeared windscreen, was a bit of pot luck. We eventually got there, to find Car Park A full, as was B and C but eventually we found a space in D; a good thing, otherwise we would have had to park under the rhododendron bushes! “Must be popular” we thought as we made our way to reception.
There were so many staff of obvious Eastern European background we wondered whether the whole venture was really some guise for money laundering. You do think like this, particularly after reading Misha Glenny’s McMafia about international criminals in the C21st!
Having checked in, been given our ‘towelling robes and flipflops’, the former a loan, the latter a gift, and dumped our bags in our room, we got the Guided Tour. Subsequently we realized it hadn’t included the restaurant, maybe as it was fully booked, and the ice room, where you can stand and shiver – probably good for closing the skin’s pores.
We go to the activities station; it’s 4 o’clock.
“Can we book for the ‘Wake Up Workout’ tomorrow morning at 0830?’
“Oh! No! Sir that’s already full as are most of the sessions.”
“Well! How about the Da Vinci BodyBoard class?”
“You can have the last two places; I’ll put your names down.”
“So is there anything else on offer today?”
“There’s a talk this evening by Ms Cynthia Welbeloved on Emptiheadedness and the Spirit of Greed.”
I almost said ‘Perfect’ but thought better of it; we could probably turn up if so moved.
Around the large pool with its glass roof were special little places for people to relax and sleep/read/chat. There was a hydro pool that was so special you had to pay extra to use it! There were saunas for men, saunas for women, saunas for both sexes ….. if you have ever been to a mixed sauna, in Germany for instance, and found nudity the norm maybe you will reflect on the reserved nature of the Anglo Saxon?
There were hot Jacuzzi-type tubs inside and out. In fact everything you needed to relax and unwind; fortunately there was no background mood music from overhead speakers, just the low murmur of people talking quietly, reverentially, respecting the whole reason why people come. We tried the pool where the water was cool and the sauna which was crowded …… and then we thought about dinner.
Despite the fact that the dining area looked like a British Rail Cafeteria, with bright lights and hard furnishings, what was on offer was good. I often judge a restaurant by how many of the options I could eat. Here I could have easily have eaten the whole menu …… although at a health spa this might have been against the whole raison d’être, irrespective of how healthy each option was!
And what of the treatments on offer? ….. ‘Elemis pro-collagen age defy’ facials …… ‘lava shell’ massages ……. ‘Dry Body’ flotation (?) …… etc etc. Doing hot yoga daily ensures our skin is in great shape so the only thing that tempts us is a massage. But it’s £50 for 25 minutes! Twenty five minutes? You would hardly get relaxed before it would be over …… our local people charge £40 for an hour so we thought ‘no! no! no!’. Other treatments seemed equally pricey. Just wonder whether, if they reduced the prices, they would make more money. I came away questioning how much they are used. Maybe if we were stressed out, lived chaotically busy lives, had serious health issues, then maybe ……
At breakfast we find a good range of healthy options laid out on the buffet table and, if you wanted to pay extra, you could have Eggs Benedict, Full English etc. I tried the kedgeree with some extra mackerel; the mackerel was warm but the kedgeree cold; disgusting! The delightful waiter from Hungary asked whether we wanted coffee or tea ….. coffee please! I was suspicious as soon as I saw that the coffee came in an old-fashioned Kona glass container that had probably been sitting on the ‘keep warm’ plate for ages. You could see through the brown liquid and it tasted of nothing. Fortunately we were able to get a decent Cappuccino and double Espresso from a different machine.
After breakfast it’s apparent that Day Guests and members arrive. I overheard a BA Stewardess loudly talking into her phone to Jermima; “’course, dahlin, anytime. Oh! And I’ve booked you the ‘Decléor Ultimate Wrinkle Eraser Facial’ as I think you need it. Must dash, I am seeing Matt for a personal session at 1000.” Some presumably come every week and why not if you live close enough and you have the money? Ah! Yes! If you have the money!
We vacate our room by 1030 but can stay until 1600. After a brief discussion about where to put our stuff, we eventually decided it was best in the car boot, decanting some ‘essentials’ into a changing room locker. We do one 55 minute exercise class on a ‘Da Vinci Board’. You can recall Da Vinci’s figure with spread arms and feet? Well, here you stand on a long board, with bungees running its length, and two at each end. Lifting one set exercises one bit and another another; lots of repetitions and encouragement from Vicki from Vladivostok – ‘very gooood, very gooood; that’s it’ repeated regularly throughout the whole class. Actually quite challenging and enjoyable!
Afterwards we shower and return to the sauna. By the time we think about lunch we could both be rung out. Having had a leisurely meal we decide that we should leave, after all, how many times do I want to swim in 24 hours, how many saunas do I want to endure?
Maybe this is just the place to come and write a postcard about those health spas ………. but actually an expensive option; think my local café would be better, as would the coffee!
Richard 27th January 2018