As the clock ticks ever closer to motherhood, Jess Baldwin seeks out the calm before the storm with a few select treatments for mothers-to-be at London’s best spas…
Pregnancy, it is the most special experience in a woman’s life…apparently. Now don’t get me wrong, when I feel those little kicks and think about the years that await, even this iron maiden is taken in by the magic of it all but, when I am perspiring like Boris under pressure on a crowded train, without a seat (or my feet) in sight or I’m being cattle prodded by Selfridges’ disapproving staff from the elegant Choos and sexy Louboutins, towards the, ‘oh so practical’ Crocs and Clarks section, it is somewhat harder to embrace with full vigour. And don’t even get me started on the underwear!
Of course, it’s not just my fashion that has changed, my grocery shop looks like the duff bag that Ainsley used to reveal to unimpressed chefs on ‘Ready Steady Cook’. Sparkling flutes of Perrier Jouet have become endless bottles of Perrier water and I swear I lived on liquorice and cornflakes alone for two months.
Talking of grocery shops, my pregnancy app has left me reeling with Waitrose. Each week my app surprises me with the vegetable that my little one now resembles in size, going all the way from a tiny poppy seed, to a frankly, terrifying pumpkin. This week she is the size of an aubergine…a 15-inch long aubergine that is! Seriously, where do these people shop? So far she has been everything from an acorn squash and a rutabaga to an heirloom tomato, a scallion and a jicama – so you can see why my meat and two veg Waitrose is leaving a bitter taste each week, as I spend an hour rummaging for a ripe apple, let alone the 12-inch mango I have just been taunted by.
Now, cankles, tiredness and back ache aside, the most shocking discovery for me, was that spas become Fort Knox, banning your presence until 12 weeks. I could put up with the total exhaustion, the hormonal outbursts and living on liquorice, but banning me from all spas, just when I need them the most – are they joking? As an avid spa trekker I was distraught and desperately counting down the days until they would let me back in and consider me fair game for an epic exfoliation and an overpriced pummelling.
So, with the 12 week hurdle in sight and just months left in London with life as I once knew it, I was determined to seek out and indulge in the most decadent pregnancy treatments that the capital had to offer. So, the second we hit 12 weeks, me and my Little Lime jumped in a cab and headed straight for Park Lane. Well, stuff Old Kent Road, you don’t need to be a Monopoly pro to know this is the place to find the swankiest hotels in town.
Located in the heart of affluent Mayfair, the site marks Four Seasons first foray in to Europe. Inspired by the 1930s, the ‘golden age of travel’ no less, the theatrical main reception certainly packs a punch with dark and stormy marble flooring surrounded by rich Claret coloured walls and bold Malbec furnishings. I spent a few moments just drinking it all in, well let’s be honest, it is the closest to a good red that I will be getting for quite some time. This bold scarlet vision is courtesy of acclaimed French designer, Pierre-Yves Rochon, yet after hopping in the lift up to the spa on the 10th floor it is as if the dark, almost operatic entrance downstairs was but a dream…
I am greeted by a whitewashed rooftop oasis, flooded in natural light and boasting panoramic views of the capital beneath. Having greeted me with a delicious fresh juice concoction and reacclimatised me from my state of discombobulation, my pristine therapist leads me through the sleek modern spa and towards the infamous Sky Suite. This exclusive double size suite is illuminated by floor to ceiling windows and features his and hers treatment beds overlooking Hyde Park plus a private double steam shower, relaxation area and dressing rooms. In fact, I am going to say it… this treatment room has the best views in London.
Normally I enjoy my treatments in dimly lit rooms, but with views like this it seemed only right to keep the curtains open – plus it is quite good fun knowing you are flashing the whole capital. Sorry Little Lime, leading you astray already. The treatment began with a glorious exfoliation, scrubbing away the smoggy commute and purifying my skin for the treatment ahead. Then began the heavenly full body massage. Like many of the best things in life, essential oils are banned during pregnancy, but my therapist used a subtle calendula-infused oil (that is marigold to you and I). Adapting the treatment to my needs she focussed on my neck and shoulders, melting out the knots, before cocooning me in a warm body mask.
Whilst this nourishing concoction worked its magic she gave me a relaxing head massage. I must have been pummelled out of my right mind as while I was ‘in the moment’ I opted for the Argan oil hair treatment leaving me floating around Mayfair alongside the supermodels and ‘it girls’ looking like a complete mess, with a barnet dripping in oil… but a huge contented smile plastered across my gleaming (okay, oily) face. Having made it back home with numerous people playing ‘guess the disease’ along the way, my head was still away with the fairies – stuff cloud nine, I was still on floor 10 and it was heaven.
For the next few weeks I felt like a spa junkie during withdrawal, as my back ache gained momentum, during meetings my eyes would glaze over the Powerpoint presentations and dreamed of deep massages and as my feet began to throb during client lunches their chat turned to white noise as I imagined soothing pedicures as I laughed in all of the wrong places and sprinkled salt in my coffee (don’t worry, it was decaf). It was no good, me and my 16 week Avocado needed another hit, and there was a certain riverside spa that was calling… hello agua Bathhouse.
Reminiscent of a transatlantic liner, Mondrian Hotel sits on the banks of the Thames in the iconic Sea Containers building. Originally intended as a hotel, the building quickly became corporate office blocks before the Morgan Hotel Group realised its true potential. Thanks to British designer, Tom Dixon, today the trendy boutique hotel exudes 1920s cruise ship glamour with an eclectic modern twist. Upon entering the building you are greeted by a gleaming copper-clad wall which even nautical novices will recognise pays homage to the hull of a ship. And, like many of the best ships, they keep their treasure below deck… in the basement spa. agua Bathhouse Spa at Mondrian offers a Mum-to-Be body treatment up until 32 weeks, (according to my app, that is when she will be a jicama… it’s a Mexican yam guys, come on, keep up). Comfortably within their limits, my Not So Little Avocado and I headed below decks.
Surprisingly, despite being located in the basement, the stylish spa is wonderfully light and airy, and its layout is like a sleek warren of wellness, with different facilities and treatment rooms around every corner. The small but perfectly formed Glamour Lounge looked like good fun for a girly day out and I enjoyed their testing station en route to my treatment room – a small shelf of lotions and potions from less mainstream brands for you to try in your own time – without the irritating sales pitch so often accompanies such treats in other spas and shops. I also loved their relaxation room, with chic white leather beds overlooking an elaborate copper teardrop statue in the centre of the room and elegant drapes offering each bed privacy and personal space to unwind in peace.
My therapist, Motoko, helped me on to the genius warm water therapy bed. Okay, it wasn’t the easiest thing to get on to but once I was settled I couldn’t understand why every other luxury spa didn’t have one. Suggested to aqua by the queen of facials, Eve Lom no less, the warmth not only eases muscle tension but the water reduces pressure on the body. No sooner was I settled and Motoko was straight to work expertly massaging her way up from my feet. So skilful was she that I was fast asleep… that was until she reached my armpits. Now I have to say, in all my years of spa reviewing, I have never had my armpits massaged – it was the most ticklish experience of my life and despite my stony face not revealing my inner battle, I lay there with my jaw clenched, determined to make it through. However, so confident was I in Motoko’s somewhat unusual massage techniques that I let her massage my bump – ask any mum to be, that is credit indeed. As I forced myself to abandon ship and sauntered dreamily along Southbank, I was already planning my next hit.
Before my ankles turned to cankles, King’s Road was my stomping ground. Many an hour was spent perusing Duke of York Square in search of the perfect sunny spot from which to sip a coffee, a real one, with caffeine and everything and gossip with my friend Annika. Evenings were spent at Megan’s Deli devouring delicious food (yes, even cured meats and gooey cheese) in their candlelit terrace and ‘Cheers’ing to a successful day of shopping. I yearned to return, but first I had to sort out the small matter of my face. Now, I don’t know who started this, ‘Oh your face glows during pregnancy’ rumour – probably the same man that invented the one about a ravenous sex drive – seriously? I hate to burst the bubble but the realities of pregnancy on one’s visage are swelling, sun spots, dehydration and spots. Well, they certainly were at 22 weeks anyway, (oh sorry, that is a spaghetti squash to you and I).
With my Chelsea foray awaiting, my spaghetti squash and I had just enough time for a facial at Jumeirah Carlton Tower’s spa, ‘The Peak’ on Sloane Street. This is less of a typical destination spa and more of a high end local health club with an added spa. Located in affluent Knightsbridge, surrounded by designer boutiques, it is ideal for a Sloany drop in pamper session. Towering over West London from the hotel’s 9th floor, the bright and modern health club is packed with preened Sloane Rangers limbering up in the latest yoga getup and its café area is popular for post work out brunches with floor to ceiling views of Knightsbridge and Chelsea beneath.
I had opted for the Skeyndor Aquatherm Recovery Facial for sensitive skin. Skeyndor is a Spanish brand which specialises in scientific skincare solutions and the Aquatherm range is based on pure spring water from Salies de Bearn in France – this magic water is packed with 25 trace elements which promises to calm and rebalance the skin. I was led upstairs to my cosy treatment room and was initially unsure what to expect from my young therapist. I needn’t have been concerned, she was fantastic and conducted the hour long facial with the precision of the military and the grace of a ballerina! (On second thoughts, maybe she wasn’t that young, maybe it was all the wonderful facials!).
Having propped me up to ensure I was comfortable with my bump on board, she gently removed my make-up, my face was then cleansed, toned and exfoliated. Then a gauze was placed over my face and a mask was applied over the top, during whilst she gave me a relaxing massage as it worked its way in to my skin. She finished with serum and moisturiser and gradually woke me up. As I made my way back downstairs, taking in the club’s enviable views down Sloane Street and towards King’s Road, I couldn’t stop touching my skin, it was so soft.
As I waited for Annika in ‘Megan’s’, I expertly manoeuvred my way around the menu’s temptations, leap-frogging the gooey cheese and charcuterie boards for the salad section and letting my eyes dance across the sparkling wine list to settle on the fresh juice section.
“Jess, you look great,” Annika said, patting my ever growing bump, “and your skin is positively glowing, it must be those hormones and all that fruit and veg.”
“Yeah, I think it’s all of the spaghetti squash I have to thank this week,” I said with a giggle.
She looked at me confused, making a mental note to check Waitrose for this bizarre new vegetable.