There are those of you who have had the pleasure (I hope) of meeting me in real life. One of the things you will have invariably picked up is that I'm not a girly girl. Female, yes, but interested in cosmetics? No. A fan of the hairdresser? No. Content to sit still and relax? Not really. So it would have probably come as a surprise to you that I found myself in a Spa last weekend - the Eden Hall Day Spa, to be precise.
Never fear, it wasn't my idea! It was the hen party of my sister-in-law, S, who is getting married at the end of this month. There were about fifteen of us, some who had been before and some who hadn't. We met in the reception area, signed the medical questionnaire and had a mini-induction from a nice lady in a black tunic. In exchange, we got given bits of paper with our treatment times and a laminated card with our names on it. This was very important, apparently - rather than carrying cash around with us we had to carry these. Then when you order your tea or Expensive Spa Products (they wish!) it gets charged to your account which you pay when you leave. Nifty.
We started by getting changed - swimming costumes with spa-provided dressing gowns (sorry, robes) in a fetching peach. Well, maybe not fetching, but peach nonetheless. After locking myself out of the rather swish electric system on my locker1, we somehow found our way through the maze and into the huge conservatory on the first floor, which is full of sofas and beanbags with a few palm trees to give it an exotic air.
Somehow finding a section that we could take over, most people started ordering hot drinks, reclining, chatting, and generally relaxing into it. As I had decided to try to spend as little money as possible, I thought I'd do something a little more active (can you see how I didn't quite fit in, yet?) and, recruiting my other sister-in-law, R, we went exploring. The Spa is a converted house, and as such it's not particularly easy to navigate. Still, by trial and error R and I managed to find the gym2, the relaxation room, the therapy rooms and through into the spa itself.
Now, we had never been to a spa before, so there were many things we weren't expecting. The colour of the robes, for example - that I wasn't expecting. The rest was a surprise too. The main spa had one large, beautifully tiled and decorated room containing different things. There was a small, circular room that squirted jets of warm salt water at you at varying heights. There were five different types of hot rooms - some with dry heat, some with scented steam and an odd room that had huge salt crystals stuck to the walls. There was an ice cold footbath that I took a perverse pleasure in walking around, and seats that had water falling from the top to massage your shoulders and bubbles rising from the foot bath to massage your feet. There were several different types of shower to get rid of the salt water, hot and cold (the cold was far too cold to try though!), plus the swimming pool that had a little outside bit and random waterfalls and spray jets. Finally there was the hilarious3 Tropical Rain. Why was it funny? Because it was just a mist that got you drenched. There was nothing to it. It was mist. And yet, within seconds it was dripping down your shoulders and your face. Crazy. Or maybe that was us?
By this point it was getting close to my appointment for my massage, so R and I headed our separate ways. At the therapy reception I joined the other ladies that were booked for 11 and we were handed yet another medical questionnaire. It has to be said that although I'm not a massage connoisseur (Mr Vip does a pretty good one, but that's only really a sample size of one), I can't say I was impressed - it was more like a rub down than an actual massage. Turns out I must have picked the wrong one - the others came out raving about theirs, clutching little prescriptions and recommendations. Poor Vip. Still, the view from the post-therapy room was gorgeous, out across the countryside. You could see their little cottage garden, the archery range (not that it was open - shame), and the outside hot tubs. The bride-to-be and her entourage that had the full works looked so relaxed after their sessions that they were practically horizontal - although not too horizontal to order hot chocolates!
Lunch was part of the package deal, and it was posh. Unfortunately, I'm not really a posh food eater either4, so I ended up having to pay an extra £8 for steak and chips, the only normal thing on the menu. Well. Undercooked steak that had to be sent back5 and a grand total of six chips. Six. I counted them. Twice. That's posh food for you, eh.
But enough of the bad things. In the afternoon we managed to do another round of the spa, and, most importantly, find the hot tubs. I tell you what, those jets did a better number on my back than the massage lady - that was a proper workout. It was blissful, partly because the temperature outside the water was nippy and it was beautifully warm inside it. There was steam rising off, good company and, above all, good conversation.
Finally, we decided to make a move. Stopping only to investigate the costume spinner (it did a remarkably good job of drying out my costume), we showered and dressed. Remembering to take our towels and robes back to reception (forgetting to do so would have cost £30), we headed up to the conservatory for the last bit of hen-do celebration - champagne and chocolate truffles. Sod healthy living, spas are about enjoyment!