Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bubbles of Contentment

I never thought that, in answer to the question, 'What did you do today?' I would ever reply 'I've been at the Day Spa.' Lounging around in warm bubbly water, sitting in steam rooms and saunas, being massaged ... it's just not the sort of thing I do. But yesterday that's exactly what I did. And now I can see what I've been missing out on.

This whole adventure began when Dawn commented on the fact that I never relax. Don't get me wrong, I'm not some quivering wreck with mad staring eyes who sits twitching in a corner, uttering the occasional 'thweep!' noise. I'm a pretty chilled person by nature. What she meant was that I don't actually ever do nothing. Even if I'm sat in front on the telly, I'm always scribbling in notebooks, doodling in a sketchpad, typing on my laptop or reading some book for research. And so, partly to give me a taste of what doing nothing feels like, and partly as a late Valentine's Day pressie, she whisked me off to the deepest wilds of Northamptonshire for a taste of the good life.

Whittlebury Hall is not, as you might assume from the name, some converted stately home; it's a modern purpose-built hotel, conference centre and day spa set in acres of rolling fields. It's really rather lovely. At least I assume it is as we arrived and left in dense freezing fog. From the outset, I realised that this was no normal hotel. Dawn had been several times before with her girlfriends but I was a Day Spa Virgin. Which is maybe why it took me a few minutes to adjust to the idea that people habitually wander around the hotel in white towelling dressing gowns and beach wear. It really is quite odd to see, especially in the depths of winter when the frost is thick and crunchy on the ground. For some reason I was put in mind of films like One flew over the cuckoo's nest. But there was no nasty Nurse Ratched here ... It may have been freezing outside but it was almost uncomfortably warm and cosy inside. The staff were fabulously helpful and friendly and fluffy and I soon settled into the hotel routine.

The Day Spa itself consists of a range of 'experiences'. There's the inevitable huge indoor heated swimming pool - this one decked out with mock Grecian statues and doric columns. There were dry heat saunas complete with rainforest sounds, Roman salt steam rooms, aromatherapy crystal steam rooms, foot spas and an ice cave (really). And there were scary-sounding places called calderiums (calderia?), sanariums and tepidariums, all of which turned out to be very pleasant indeed. At the centre of it all was a flower-shaped hydrotherapy pool with a variety of water jets and bubble generators that pummelled, squirted, blasted and drenched you with warm water and bubbles. It's all very nice as long as you keep your testicles away from some of the more powerful jets. Elsewhere, people were enjoying massages, seaweed wraps, hot stone therapies, Rasul and many other forms of pampering. Occasionally, the air was rent with the screams of some fool who'd decided to brave the cold water bucket shower.

It was interesting to watch the punters as they strolled from experience to experience. Of the people there, maybe 70% were female and you could tell immediately how each lady felt about her body. There were thin ladies in bikinis and others in one-piece bathing suits or tankinis ... equally there were larger ladies in all sorts of outfits. It was both obvious and a little bit sad that most of them felt the need to cover up as much as possible; even those who had terrific figures. But it was really good to see some of the medium and larger ladies saying 'To hell with the magazine world's impossible ideal of perfection!' and wearing what they liked. Let it all out girls is what I say. None of the blokes felt the need for a one-piece to cover their beer guts.

In the poolside restaurant people sat around in their dressing gowns eating their buffet lunches with hair like a mad woman's breakfast and not giving a damn about how they looked. That was great to see. My top moment came when a raven-haired waitress was showing a customer and her partner to a table and made a mistke. 'Oh sorry!' she says, 'Just having a blonde moment there!' Her very blonde customer smiled the kind of smile you see on people's faces when they're visiting a relative that they detest.

The evening meal was a three course affair and quite passable although not as top-notch as maybe you'd expect. I put this down to the sheer number of diners. It was more mass catering than a restaurant service but, as I say, the food was decent enough. An overnight stay in the pretty sumptuous hotel and a whopping great breakfast was a splendid end to the whole affair.

All in all, a great experience and I'd do it again. Next time I may just get myself pampered. And why not?

You only live once ... and you're dead a long time.

1 comment:

Me said...

Like Dawn I have been there a few times and I have to agree - its really quite lovely. I am glad you set aside your reservations and enjoyed the experience.