There are not many places one is genuinely upset about leaving after only three days. Grayshott Spa is one of them, being one of those few where you instantly feel home and the staff become like family. So when my friend Carolin and I had to leave the spa on a gorgeous Sunday evening to get back to our hectic lives in London, we couldn’t help but feel incredibly stress-free yet miserable at the same time.
Only three days earlier we had met at Waterloo – and a hop, skip, a short train ride and a cab transfer later, we arrived at Grayshott Spa, a gorgeous historic country house in Surrey, with 59 bedrooms and 36 treatment rooms. The house is situated in a truly tranquil setting, with 47 acres of gardens, woods and sweeping lawns, adjoining 700 acres of National Trust land – we were immediately enveloped in a peaceful, warm atmosphere.
We stayed in one of the Manor rooms – the best category of course – in the main part of the house with garden views, the interior balancing traditional with contemporary, with a soft colour palette and a homely atmosphere. The dress code in the house is bathrobes (except for dinner where one should wear more formal clothing) and visitors stroll around from treatment room to treatment room, reading, sipping herbal teas and enjoying the peace and quiet. I need to add that from time to time we did feel as though we were on the set of Girl, Interrupted where the patients were treated for borderline personality disorder instead of being massaged and pampered.
Upon arrival, we both had a health consultation with nurse Barbara who had a look at my general health (“You seem very healthy and your blood pressure couldn’t be better.” Luckily she did not ask how much I drink on a weekly basis…), and asked about my lifestyle, suggesting that I should eat fewer carbs, which was apparently very easy to achieve if I only said “No” to the bread basket before dinner. “Don’t worry, it will be made very easy for you here… Grayshott does not really serve any bread.” The moment she said this I knew I kind of wanted a fresh baguette smothered in salted butter. Or a Big Mac meal. Or both.
We had booked five treatments each, making most of our stay, all ranging from aromatherapy facial massages, to de-stress wraps and deep tissue massages (“You seem very tense madam and you have a golfball-sized knot in your back.”). I don’t want to cause any unnecessary jealousy here so all I am going to say is that all of the treatments were heavenly, deeply relaxing and made us forget any worries/stress/negative feelings of any kind. I didn’t even look at my BlackBerry throughout my stay, which, as people who know me will attest, is completely out of character. All day, every day, we were waddling back and forth in our bathrobes and slippers between outdoor pool (yes, we went that one amazing weekend at the end of September), sauna, treatments, steam room and hydrotherapy pool, sipping tea and feeling incredibly hungry most of the time. The reason for this was that we didn’t eat enough breakfast nor lunch on our first day (a mistake we made sure not to repeat on days two and three!) and the portion sizes at dinner are on the modest side, water is the standard beverage and there are no snacks between meals (only apples and bananas if you are desperate).
In the evening, we slipped into something less comfortable – dresses – as Grayshott has a cocktail hour from 6-7pm, serving virgin Bloody Marys, fruit punches and light canapés. At 6pm sharp, a starving Carolin and I were at Bubbles bar, eagerly waiting for the canapés to appear, and we also managed to down a bottle of Champagne while devouring the little treats (I think we will go down in Grayshott’s history as the girls who got drunkeddy-drunk-drunk and who could eat the most crab canapés in five minutes).
After a delicious and boozy dinner (yes, we also did order some wine to go with the food) we borrowed a DVD from the library. Half way into Juno, I noticed a humongous black, hairy spider at the door and the peace and quiet of the grounds was disturbed by two girls screaming for help. We hysterically called reception and 10 minutes later, a lovely member of staff arrived, stating that he was not scared of spiders at all but confirmed that indeed, this was a “very very big one”. He squashed the spider but I have to say that we didn’t see the lovely chap throughout our entire stay anymore. We were not quite sure what happened to him but are thankful he helped us through our ordeal.
Following a great night’s sleep, we decided to join the Grayshott Powerwalk through the gorgeous National Trust countryside at 8am (another thing that my friends would find totally unlike me. But hey, let’s live on the edge…). However, it wasn’t the views that took my breath – it was the powerwalk. For 45 minutes we were almost running up and down hills, through fields and forests, past dog walkers and horse riders who were wondering whether that blonde (meaning me) with the red face would die of a heart attack any minute. I was incredibly happy upon our return to have survived my ordeal when a sweat-free Carolin jollily announced that we would do the same thing the next day. After cooling down a little bit we had breakfast from a scrumptious buffet in the main dining room, which included a selection of cereals, a truly delicious Grayshott muesli (the house’s own take on Bircher Muesli), yoghurt and fresh fruit and juices.
After more treatments (this time our tension was caused by the spider incident of the night before), more pampering, more teas and more canapés and champagne at 6pm, we had dinner and talked about the fact that we were already sad about leaving the next day.
There is so much more I could tell you about our stay – from the seriously glamorous women who were there with us, to the exceptionally friendly staff and the outstanding food. But I think that everyone should have his or her own experience at Grayshott Spa. It is the ideal place for anyone needing a kick-start to a healthier lifestyle with lightly controlled nutrition and on hand advice. The tranquillity of the surroundings and Grayshott’s dedicated approach to well being helps rebalance your body and soul – everything you could possibly want from a spa break.
After our three days, during which Carolin and I were able to have a much needed catch-up, discuss news and laugh more than we had in previous months, we were surprisingly serene on the train journey back to London and decided that a spa break at Grayshott should be an annual tradition. Not the cheapest place to go but worth every penny.
But next time, hopefully, there won’t be a spider.