Thursday, December 9, 2010
I don’t think I’m alone when I say that the holidays stress me out. Christmas shopping for family members is difficult enough, but figuring out how to ship the gifts overseas presents another layer of complication. Add to that the massive seasonal shopping crowds on Oxford Street and the steady stream of holiday parties that make waking up in the morning a difficult task, and I always find myself in need of some relaxation and purification before my actual Christmas vacation starts.
I knew that this annual stress fest would happen, so when the One Aldwych hotel in London offered me a complimentary Natura Bissé spa treatment, I made sure to book it for the run-up to Christmas. Given that my schedule has been packed for the past few weeks, I’m glad I did.
I arrived at the spa on Tuesday afternoon and couldn’t wait to try the signature Aroma Ritual. It was a 90 minute detoxing floral Ayurvedic facial and aromatic back massage with warm floral sachets. The brochure called it the “perfect antidote to any over-indulgences over the seasonal holiday period”. It was as if they read my mind.
When I walked into the spa I was greeted by the staff and given a form to fill out that detailed my health and my goals for the massage. I took the clipboard to the sofas in the waiting area, passing by the Health Club’s gym on the way.
After that I was handed a fluffy towel and robe and a pair of slippers, and headed to the changing room to get ready. The area was large, and had ample locker space, showers, and amenities. It even had a centrifuge to get water out of wet swimsuits, which I had never seen before. It was a nice touch.
After I changed, I met my massage therapist, Tatiana, who took me to one of the three the treatment rooms in the spa. The room itself was very calming, with low light, a comfortable massage table, and relaxing scents and music to set the ambiance. Even before the Aroma Ritual treatment started I could feel the seasonal stress start to recede.
The treatment itself was pure relaxation. It started with a massage, but not the ordinary kind. Instead of using her hands, the therapist used warm, scented sachets. I was a bit skeptical at first, but it turned out to be extremely relaxing, and not painful like the deep-tissue massages I used to get in San Francisco.
When she was done with one set of sachets, she would place them by my feet, hands, or shoulders to keep them warm, and then get another set to continue the massage. I was a bit startled the first time I heard the sachets clap together (presumably to activate the heat), but after that it didn’t bother me. I was far too relaxed.
The facial was equally soothing, and didn’t involve extractions or any other painful processes. After starting with a calming facial massage, Tatiana walked me through exactly what she was applying to my skin. The products ranged from an organic honey scrub to a delicious smelling toner to oxygen cream to a cool, thick mask that was left to dry while she completed the massage. When she peeled the mask off, my face felt amazing.
After Tatiana left the room at the end of the treatment, I was tempted to lie there forever. Unfortunately my busy holiday season schedule didn’t permit that; I still had other places to be that afternoon. I reluctantly rolled myself off the table, wrapped the fluffy robe back around me, and met Tatiana by the entrance. She asked how I felt (amazing) and told me that I shouldn’t wash my face for the rest of the day in order to protect my skin.
Following our conversation I went back to the changing room and despite the temptation to go swimming in the Health Club’s gorgeous pool, I forced myself to get dressed and ready for my next meeting.
As I left the One Aldwych spa to face the cold weather and the stresses of the season, I felt calmer than usual. I’m hoping the tranquility will last until I leave for Asia later this month, but even if it had only lasted for the duration of the treatment, it would have been well worth it.