Reach for the spas

Sarah Eb­ner takes her scep­ti­cal hus­band to a health spa and, within sec­onds of ar­riv­ing, both de­cide it is good to be in Grayshott

The Jewish Chronicle - - TRAVEL -

As the par­ent of young chil­dren, I felt that a spa — a place where you could re­lax, swim, be pam­pered and, per­haps best of all, not be both­ered by chil­dren (your own or oth­ers) — sounded like a fan­tasy .

I rather thought I might have to wait un­til my two were at univer­sity be­fore I could ac­tu­ally visit a spa, but thanks to the kind­ness of my par­ents — who proved that the best presents do not al­ways come gift wrapped — it be­came a re­al­ity.

As a way of cel­e­brat­ing my 10th wed­ding an­niver­sary, they of­fered to look af­ter the chil­dren for two nights so that I and my hus­band — who al­most col­lapsed with grat­i­tude when I told him — could get away. When they made the of­fer, we were sud­denly aware of the daz­zling choices open to us: all the places that did not have baby lis­ten­ing de­vices, child-friendly fa­cil­i­ties, or early sup­pers, were avail­able to us. And when plan­ning the jour­ney, we didn’t have to worry about pit-stops for our fouryear-old.

We thought about go­ing abroad, but de­cided it would be too much of a rush (my par­ents wanted us back by bed­time on Sun­day — the chil­dren’s, not theirs). We ques­tioned friends and mulled it over un­til we re­alised that all we wanted to do was re­lax.

It was at that point that I heard my­self say: “Per­haps we should try a health farm.” Apart from my hus­band’s ini­tial alarm that he might be the only man there (he was not; about a third of health spa clients are male; a higher per­cent­age at week­ends), it did not take much to con­vince him.

And so we found our­selves driv­ing to one of the coun­try’s most luxe and well known spas, Grayshott in Sur­rey. Not be­ing health farm habituees, we were ner­vous about what to ex­pect. We even thought about stash­ing some bis­cuits in the lug­gage. How­ever, our fears melted away pretty much as soon as we stopped in front of Grayshott Spa, set within the mag­nif­i­cent for­mer stately home.

The lobby has been ren­o­vated along with ev­ery guest room, restau­rant and lounge — as well as the spa it­self. The re­fur­bish­ment, com­pleted last sum­mer, cost £4.5 mil­lion, and is stun­ning. There are strik­ing mod­ern paint­ings, a vast stair­case sweep­ing up to the first-floor guest-rooms and a real feel­ing of grandeur.

Our room, in the main house, was splen­did and gor­geously dec­o­rated with pale so­fas, plump scar­let cush­ions, vast bed and doors onto a bal­cony with loungers, and views on to the 47 acres of man­i­cured grounds. Best of all was the knowl­edge that our huge room was not soon to be filled up with nap­pies, toys and the gen­eral de­tri­tus that usu­ally ac­com­pa­nies us on hol­i­day. We also had a widescreen TV, with satel­lite and DVD — the kinds of lux­u­ries my hus­band dreams of — safe, big fluffy tow­els and a huge bath­room, though there was nowhere to hook up the shower — we de­cided they like their guests to take baths.

Be­com­ing part of the health spa ex­pe­ri­ence was also some­thing of a nov­elty.

The first thing is to re­alise that the de rigueur day­wear at Grayshott is a robe. Two cosy, white tow­elling robes were hang­ing up in our bed­room cup­board, so my hus­band and I duly slipped into them.

Walk­ing around in the pub­lic rooms we were aware of a mix­ture of gen­ders and ages. Moth­ers and grown-up daugh­ters seemed to be a pop­u­lar com­bi­na­tion, as were women with fe­male friends. There were also men around, mainly ac­com­pa­ny­ing wives or girl­friends.

Fol­low­ing the re­fur­bish­ment, the spa has beau­ti­fully ap­pointed new treat­ments rooms and a new, state-ofthe-art hy­drother­apy suite, and there are also more treat­ments, prod­ucts and ther­a­pies on of­fer.

In the in­ter­ests of re­search, my hus­band felt it was es­sen­tial to sam­ple one of the fa­cials and mas­sages de­signed es­pe­cially for men, and was par­tic­u­larly im­pressed by his “de-stress” mas­sage — 50 min­utes of deep mus­cle work on his neck and shoul­ders.

I was cer­tainly not go­ing to miss out on some treat­ments in ad­di­tion to the ba­sic body mas­sage which is part of the spa pack­age. All were lovely, but I es­pe­cially en­joyed the in­fin­itely re­lax­ing “Ori­en­tal wis­dom,” a mix­ture of tui-na and shi­atsu mas­sage.

We lounged in the big squashy so­fas of the fab­u­lously re­fur­bished draw­ing room, we did a lit­tle swim­ming and my hus­band took a trip to the gym (far too stren­u­ous for me).

We could have also con­sulted a di­eti­cian about weight-loss and for healthy-eat­ing ad­vice to take home, had a con­sul­ta­tion with a per­sonal trainer to im­prove our fit­ness regimes and at­tended any num­ber of classes, from Tai Chi to spin­ning, aer­o­bics to aquacise.

The spa also has a cin­ema with re­cently re­leased movies, and a bar which of­fers, as well as a variety of teas, smooth­ies and a range of min­eral wa­ters, or­ganic wines and Cham­pagne. Golf, ten­nis (in­door and out­door courts), guided walks, and the new out­door swim­ming pool were also on of­fer, al­though the weather was so hor­ri­ble we stayed in­doors.

Of course, spa in­genues like me al­ways worry about the food — as in will there be any grub be­yond the odd let­tuce leaf and blob of cot­tage cheese. Well, th­ese days, you cer­tainly do not starve at a spa. The buf­fet break­fast was a treat, with ce­re­als, fruit (in­clud­ing the more ex­otic va­ri­eties), yo­ghurt and a choice of cooked dishes such as por­ridge and omelettes.

Lunch was a salad buf­fet, which I found a bit te­dious by the sec­ond day. I snack a lot in the day, and there was no chance of do­ing that — but per­haps it just proves I am not cut out for a spa food regime.

Din­ner, how­ever, was de­li­cious — three cour­ses, with per­fectly cooked fish or veg­e­tar­ian dishes for mains and even pud­dings, which tasted won­der­fully wicked, even if they were not — but por­tions were a bit small for those of us with, um, tra­di­tional Jewish ap­petites.

The best part for us, was the re­lax­ation: work­ing and bring­ing up chil­dren, may be re­ward­ing and fun, but it is also ex­haust­ing, so it was bliss­ful to be able to nap, read the en­tire pa­per un­in­ter­rupted and have a lovely long soak with­out hav­ing to worry about sup­per-time, bath­time and be­ing wo­ken at dawn by a wideawake four-year-old.

Of course, I wor­ried about the chil­dren. Even my ridicu­lously kind par­ents ad­mit­ted that they were a bit con­cerned. In the event of course, they were all fine. Now we are hop­ing that we can per­suade the grand­par­ents to take our off­spring again — hope­fully be­fore we get to our 20th wed­ding an­niver­sary.

Gra­cious Grayshott Spa, stand­ing in 47 acres of land­scaped grounds

Long­ing to chill out: a chaise longue in one of the re­fur­bished suites at Grayshott Spa

The in­door pool at Grayshott Spa, has also en­joyed a facelift as part of the £4.5 mil­lion re­fur­bish­ment

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