Close your eyes and think of England('s spas)

The Lush Spa country kitchen.

There were a few factors that tempted me back to the United Kingdom again during this year's trip to Europe, but one of the strongest was English spas.

I'm guessing that when most people think of spas, they think of Moroccan spas, or Turkish baths, or at least an outdoor massage table in some sort of tropical location where gauzy curtains billow in the breeze. But me, I think of English spas. Mostly because of my fantastic Synaesthesia massage there last year, an experience I was eager to repeat.

I didn't want to get the same treatment over again, though (fabulous as it was), since Lush had come out with some new treatments since my last visit. I was especially drawn to "The Good Hour," which is a deeper tissue massage, and is set to sea shanties. Yes, in the strange and fantastic world that is the Lush Spa, they've gotten about as far away from whale songs and Enya as they possibly can and set a massage to sea shanties.

Then the most I started thinking about it, the more I thought I should try TWO treatments. I mean, how often am I in the UK and able to go to the Lush Spa? Not very. And "The Spell" foot treatment seemed to be just the thing for someone with a bum foot. So I booked The Spell for the very beginning of my trip, and The Good Hour for the very end, a nice little set of spa bookends.

I had The Spell the day I landed, which maybe wasn't my best idea ever. My migraine was really throbbing from the lack of sleep, and I was seriously jet-lagged. Before the treatment, I followed my therapist, Sophie, around the shop floor as she picked up all of the items we'd be using. Then we went down to the delightful little country cottage kitchen of the spa, where she gave me an ink pen and paper, to write down something that was worrying me, while she went to prepare the room. I folded up my paper as instructed, and dropped it into a copper kettle, and when Sophia returned, she lit a fireplace match and placed it in the kettle. My "worry" went up in a flash — a bit of theatrics before we went into the treatment room.

The treatment starts with a foot soak and then a scrub, all, of course, with Lush products. Then you get a slathering of Volcano all over your feet. Sophie described Volcano as almost an underdog product for Lush, not the most popular one in the store by far. But I've been using it since it came out and love it — the warming effect feels great on your feet and it really does make them softer. While the Volcano was setting, Sophie did a fantastic head, neck, and shoulders massage with hot stones that had been coated in Dream Time temple balm, so that it not only felt great, it also smelled of relaxing lavender. It didn't exactly get rid of my migraine, but it did help.

Then it was on to the bulk of the treatment, a reflexology foot massage. I've only had one other reflexology foot massage, and this one used a lighter touch (and Pied de Pepper foot lotion). It felt very nice, so nice that combined with the jet lag I found myself fighting to stay awake. The music was certainly a contributing factor — more vocal than that used in Synaesthesia, it's another custom-scored set of English folk centered around a theme of walking.

So even though I was in a sleepy trance for much of it, I really enjoyed The Spell. And with the combo of relaxing spa treatment, a very nice hotel bed, and the jet lag, I slept like the dead that night. Did it warrant the name of The Spell? Well, all I'll say is that my worry did indeed go away.

This post isn't meant to be ALL about the Lush Spa, however, as I did also have an additional spa visit while I was in Bath. The first time I went to Bath, with Eileen and Jeff, we spent some time in Thermae Bath Spa's Cross Bath, which was just the thing after touring the Roman Baths. When I decided I wanted to go back to Bath, I knew I wanted to check out the full Thermae complex.

In the main building, they have two major pools — one on the top of the building with a spectacular view out over Bath, and another slightly larger one on the ground level. Both pools are filled with the same mineral water that the Romans and the Regency gentry bathed in, pleasantly warm and slightly sweet-smelling. There's also a set of four steam rooms, each with a different scent, and a set of bubbling foot baths. I decided to pay for a four-hour session, but wasn't sure if I would end up using all of the time.

Well, I did. Both of the pools were lovely to float in, and they had pool noodles out to make for easier floating. I went in the early evening, and the pools were crowded at first but thinned out as the evening went on. Each pool had water features, like bubbles coming up from the floor, and a high-pressure waterfall that gave a great shoulder massage. My favorite, though, was a lazy river in the ground floor Minerva Bath, made with a series of jets that propelled you and your pool noodle along. I could have done that alone for hours.

I did manage to tear myself away from the lazy river, though, and also alternate among the steam rooms and rooftop pool. It was a bit cold getting out of the water and the steam, particularly on the roof, but that was quickly forgotten as soon as I got into the next warm attraction. It really was a delightful and relaxing way to spend an evening, and I felt fantastically relaxed when I left.

I saved the other end of my Lush Spa bookend, my Good Hour massage, for the day I flew out. I had a late afternoon flight out, which left me just enough time for a 10 a.m. massage (the treatment portions of both of my treatments clocked in at one hour, but I was there about two hours both times).

So the worst thing about The Good Hour is knowing I can't go back immediately and get the treatment again. Synaesthesia might be more of an experience, but The Good Hour really worked. It uses trigger point therapy, which Sophie (again my therapist for this treatment), explained as pressing down on a knot in your muscles and then releasing it so that blood rushes in and it's like restarting your muscle in the same way you'd restart a computer. And it really works. This was the most effective massage I've ever had — my muscles felt like jello when I left.

And there were still some of the signature Lush theatrics. For this one, Sophie dropped a Big Blue bath bomb into water and then poured it over dry ice, creating "sea mist" that rolled across the floor before the treatment began. As for the sea shanties, I can see where they wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but I thought they were great, and they really fit with the motion of a deep tissue massage. Speaking of a cup of tea, that was what Sophie had prepared for me when I left the treatment room, complete with an optional splash of rum (which I opted for, because hey, I was on vacation). It was a contrast to the detoxifying post-Spell drink of hot water infused with lemon and ginger slices, but perfectly fitting.

So while Thermae was a wonderfully relaxing way to spend an evening, the three treatments I've had at the Lush Spa are hands-down the most unique, memorable, and surprisingly also the most effective I've ever had. They are delightfully and unabashedly English, from the country cottage decor, to the folk music, to the cup of tea at the end. When you think of spas, you might not think of England, but you should.

Candlelight in the treatment room.

No comments: