Mud serail for two, £89, Khanya of Africa exfoliation, £39 (individual treatment)
Sexy and romantic times and full body beauty experience sound like they should go together like Torvill and Dean. More often than not, they go together like MI5 and Dean Gaffney. Would you like to go on a romantic spa day? Or perhaps you’d care to try this delicious tofu-kale dip? In fact, this weekend you could come on a relaxing hang gliding and fire pit experience with me!
Spending time at the spa with your lover might seem like a brilliant idea when the Groupon email says so, but in practice, it’s a bit…well, you are either in the final throws of marriage counselling, or you have an enormous pleather sofa and regularly post jointly on Craigslist. You want to let it all hang out at the spa. And if you’re going to do that with the light of your life, you might as well do it over a stuffed crust and a Curb box set.
Alternatively, you go to an Imagine Spa, where slathering your partner in mud is a genuinely delightful and life enhancing experience. My boyfriend was an apprehensive spa virgin (that one time in Sweden didn’t count, right?) and took to it like Charlie Sheen took to pay per view in-room hotel movies.
When we arrived at the Heathrow Hilton branch, we were equal parts excited and nervous, so the experience already had some first date magic, even though we share a medicine cabinet and occasionally swap pyjamas. And the spa itself is beautifully appointed – glamorous enough to make you feel pretty darn swank, but not so intimidatingly brassy that you think you’ll get thrown out on suspicion of stealing towels. It’s on two floors – the main body of the spa is a thermal suite, featuring a salt grotto, aroma steam room, sauna, feature showers, treatment rooms and an ice fountain – all centered around a hydrotherapy pool. Upstairs, there’s a Relaxation Room where you can order lunch, as well as more treatment rooms. The aesthetic is Eastern Luxury – you could imagine Scheherazade hanging out and telling stories between treatments – but the set up has a Scandinavian sort of practicality. I bet they’re all about the salt grotto in Borgen.
For our first treatment, we had a Mud Serail – our lovely therapist explained that we would be cloistered in a tiled room, with a pot of mud to smear on each other, as we were alternately steamed and showered for 45 minutes. The mud room is set within another enormous lockable ante room with its own shower, so there’s no chance of interruption from confused, curious patrons. It’s the perfect set up. You’ve got someone you love and trust to help you muddy up the places you normally keep covered with paper knickers, and you get to hang out and have a lovely chat in a place where it’s impossible to be distracted by Twitter. Also, the mud smells like chocolate.
If your partner doesn’t look like their standard sexy self during the mud experience, they will be even hotter than usual after it. The mud works in combination with the steam to plump, nourish and soften your skin, and when you can see that it’s done something for them, you’ve got proof that you’re looking great too.
Lunch options are healthy but surprisingly tasty – the poached chicken salad was so tender that we suspected it had been for a mud bath too, only it didn’t taste of chocolate. The club sandwich with the fried egg looked delicious, but there were concerns that eating an egg and bacon based sandwich whilst wearing a bathrobe would bring on a hangover, by association.
My boyfriend announced that he was off to try “the room that smells” (the aromatherapy room, which left him so relaxed I feared I’d have to carry him out on some kind of purpose built spa buggy) and I went for a Khanya of Africa Exfoliation. I was massaged with sea salt, and then sweet marula oil. Apparently this “symbolises purity, health, wellbeing and new life”. The whole thing made me feel as smooth and delicious as the priciest premium ice cream – you know, the sort you have to order from a specialist catalogue. And the lovely therapist was a genius, massaging with appropriate levels of firmness and being reasonably blase about the always awkward nudity imbalance, but allowing me to preserve my modesty by moving towels as adeptly as a magician doing the tablecloth trick.
The best thing about the Imagine spa is that you book your time, not your treatments in advance – so you don’t end up staring at the website and weeping “but how will I KNOW whether I want a seaweed wrap six weeks on Wednesday? I might fancy a facial by then!” As someone who has never made a packed lunch because their restrictive nature curbs my rebel bohemian spirit (and I am lazy) I am a fan of this. And as well as offering spa standards, there’s a full complement of beauty treatments to choose from too.
The other best thing is the therapists. We’ve all had petrifying pedicures from nail scissor wielding maniacs, and waxes from wobbly trainees who need to keep the nearest A&E department on speed dial. But Imagine Spa employs therapists who are super skilled professionally, yet remain friendly and cheerful no matter how many times you get lost looking for the grotto.
If you love someone, take them as a Valentine’s gift. If you’re one of those annoying “but it’s not just a DAY, it should be ALL YEAR AROUND, YEAH?” types, take them on the 15th. Or take a pal for their birthday, or take yourself for St Patrick’s Day. But make sure you bloody go. You’ll feel totes amaze.