From the desk of Style Guru and Jet Setter, Pepita Diamand
I've been to a good number spas in my time; either for a day, a long weekend, or a single soporific treatment. I'd never, however, taken a proper spa holiday until recently, when my Monsieur and I spent eight days at Schloss Elmau in the Bavarian Alps. To be fair, Schloss Elmau is more than a mere spa hotel: It's a 5 star resort with skiing in winter, hiking in summer, and a cultural program of concerts and events all year long. But thanks to a nasty bout of bronchitis during our stay, my activity that week was limited to the spa. While Monsieur skied, I sat in the steam room. While Monsieur swam, I snoozed in the sauna. While Monsieur did stuff, I did nothing except turn up to my next Ayurvedic massage. And as fearful as I first was about being bored, I loved it. My week of doing nichts was such a deeply relaxing and restorative experience that I'd recommend it in a heartbeat. Here's what you need to know before you go...
Spa hotels vary greatly in terms of facilities, programs, and atmosphere, so before you do anything, think of what you're looking for from your spa stay and research accordingly. If rest and relaxation is your goal, look for spa hotels with quiet zones, meditation classes, and separate facilities for children (if they're allowed at all). If beauty treatments are important to you, find a spa that uses brands and techniques that address your specific needs. If weight-loss is your main objective, avoid spas which serve wine with meals, but if you want a pampering break with a bunch of friends, be careful not to spoil the party by choosing a spa that's dry.
Although some spa hotels throw in a few freebies during your stay, most treatments cost extra. As a result, you might only book a couple for fear of breaking the bank. My advice? Smash that little piggy and book as many treatments as your heart desires before you go; one per day at least. Provided you've made yourself aware of the spa's cancellation policy (usually 24 hours but always double check) it's better to decide what NOT to do once you're there than to find out that they can't fit you in during your stay.
When you're not being kneaded by a masterful masseuse you can always take matters into your own hands by packing a few treatments of your own. A hair masque is a must for lounging in a relaxation room and a good cuticle cream will work wonders when you're hanging out in the hammam. My favorites? Neutrogena Triple Moisture Hair Masque , Aveda Dry Remedy Moisturising Treatment Masque, and Sally Hansen's Cuticle Balm.
There's something bizarrely soothing about being with a bunch of strangers all wearing the same bathrobes. Normally provided by the hotel, this terrycloth uniform helps keep the outside world from creeping in to the spa's sanctuary and is a custom respected by the most seasoned guests. Wearers of their own robes look jarringly out of place. Wearers of their own flip-flops, on the other hand, look savvy: Spa slippers are rarely the right size, so in an environment where comfort is key, bringing your own beach thongs is a great idea.
If you venture to a European spa (which I strongly recommend: Germans and Austrians take their spa-time seriously and the French view thalasso as a way of life), be prepared to see lots of skin, male and female, often in the same steamy facility. The atmosphere is meant to be natural, not sexual, and the shock of the nude will eventually wear off. With an accepting attitude and skilfully placed towel, you might even dare to go bare yourself!
Photo credit: Woman getting massage via Shutterstock
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