It was 13:45. I was stressed. I’d spent the morning exchanging text messages with a man who I may or may not be meeting later, depending on my mood. I wanted to see him, but I dislike being harangued and my shoulders were tight. I could feel myself hunched up and I made a conscious effort to stand and walk taller as I strode along Park Lane, on my way to the Four Seasons spa. As stressed as I was, I was also incredibly excited. I think there are fewer things that I enjoy or have more experience in than spas. Spas and massages, and I was on my way to experience both.
Part of the fabulously decadent refurbishment of the Four Seasons Hotel Park Lane, the spa takes pride of place on the top floor with views overlooking Green Park. As soon as I entered the reception area from the lift, I caught a glimpse of this view, but it was only when I was greeted with a hot towel and a fruit juice in the seating area that the full extent of the panorama was revealed. And it was breathtaking.
I was shown around the spa: all soft grays and charcoal, given my robe and slippers – soft, fluffy, luxurious – and I changed, leaving my phone and the anxious possibility of another pestering text message behind me. I was led through the spa to the treatment room waiting area – a dark, cocoon-like room with low lighting, warm floors and inviting chairs. Within a few minutes I was greeted by one of the most genuine smiles ever – warm and friendly, and my therapist took me through to one of the therapy rooms and my 2 hours of pure self-indulgence and luxury began.
I was having the advanced back, face and scalp treatment, which focuses on relieving headaches, neck, shoulder and back tension. All of which are common companions on my journey through London life. As I sat overlooking Green Park, I wondered silently to myself if it would be possible for me to be in any more need of a de-stressing 2 hours. I doubted it. I was excited.
What makes the Four Seasons spa stand out is the quality of the staff they employ. Far more than a beauty therapist trained in massage, it was clear within the first couple of minutes of our conversation that Lucia is a real expert in her field. Easy yet professional, she talked me through the various products available and options I had, explaining that for each part of the treatment, different aromatherapy products are used and that to get the most out of the treatment, I and more specifically my body, needs to choose the correct oils. The way this is done is through scent – with aromatherapy, Lucia explained, a person will be attracted to what they need at that time.
With this in mind, a sample of each oil was handed to me to sniff, blindly. The one of three options I liked the most was put aside and after each choice, Lucia explained why my intuitive selection was right for the physical and emotional problems I had previously listed as wanting addressed. I felt smug that my unconscious was such a great judge of scent.
I was invited to de-robe and lie on the (ready-heated) massage couch as Lucia left the room, to return a few moments later. My treatment started with a back exfoliation – the scrub I had previously chosen filled with rose essential oil was applied to my back, and after gentle circular movements, was removed with hot mitts. This was ridiculously relaxing. I could feel my tension of the morning being sluiced off with every sweep.
Next, the second of the aromatherapy products I had chosen was applied, this time a massage oil that is so full of precious oils that I could smell it as soon as the lid was lifted. Lucia applied the warm oil while volcanic hot stones were gently drawn across my aching muscles. I never wanted this to end and I felt myself drifting off. I had asked Lucia to spend particular time working on my shoulders as this is where I hold most of my tension, and after a few minutes of her expert work, I needed release more than ever.
It is in the massage that I really appreciated how skilled a masseur Lucia is – she clearly understood the anatomy of the back and shoulders and wasted no time getting straight to the points of tension, releasing them effortlessly. I was grateful not to have to direct her to where I wanted extra pressure. The massage was one of the best I’ve had for a while.
Being someone usually unable to switch off for more than 20 minutes at a time, I was surprised that 60 minutes into the 2-hour treatment, I had yet to start panicking about calls I might be missing, texts I should be replying to or the time the treatment may be overrunning. Instead I was calm, relaxed and happy to surrender my concerns and anxieties about the time to Lucia. For me this was a big deal – incapable of relinquishing control to anyone, I found myself reassured that she had her eye on the watch and that the treatment wouldn’t overrun, making me late for my next appointment.
Having spoken about my skin type before the treatment began, the products tailored to my various skin issues were ready. My face was thoroughly cleansed, twice, then a gentle exfoliation cream was applied and wiped off. My face was steamed and any ‘impurities’ were removed. Finally, a moisturising mask was applied and removed, and then a rich face cream. I was left to bask in the deep relaxation I found myself in while Lucia massaged my scalp.
I eventually arose from my slumber and wrapped myself once again in the fluffy white robe, sliding my feet into soft slippers and my mind back into the day. I knew this relaxation could not last and I found myself rushing to the door, desperate to check my iPhone for emails and missed calls from the wide variety of clients, friends and suitors who seem to constantly need to be in touch with me.
It was only once I was showered and dressed that I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I was taken aback. After my intense facial and collection of impurity removals, I looked like Freddy Kruger. But a very relaxed, refreshed and calm Freddy Kruger. My whole body felt clean, my face had never been cleaner or smoother, and my mind, despite its significant attempts to the contrary, was still and peaceful.
I left the tranquil, warm, bright space of the spa and turned my phone on. One missed call and a voicemail. Back in the hustle and bustle of the hotel lobby I dialed in, tense at the thought of having to see anyone this evening. Is was a message from an estate agent. They wanted to know if I was still looking for a house to buy. I audibly sighed with relief and hung up the phone. Almost immediately, it beeped with a text message: “Are you around? I can be with you for 5.”
I groaned. It was my pursuer. I couldn’t face seeing anyone this evening and I tried to think of an excuse that I hadn’t used already. I headed to the ladies restroom and glanced at myself in the mirror, Freddy Kruger stared back. I replied to his text: “So sorry darling, I can’t make tonight, my facialist insists that I cannot possibly have anything on my face for at least 7 hours.”