Sun, sea and spa -- just what a Spy needs once the seasons start to change. So when we were invited to spend a long weekend at the Fortina Spa Resort in Malta, we didn't take long to say yes.
Around three-and-a-half hours by air from Gatwick, Malta has a mild Mediterranean climate; even in winter, it's never less than about 10ºC -- perfect for a spot of winter sun. We looked at the Fortina's website before we left and were intrigued by the idea of a spa bedroom. The pictures looked great, but could there really be a steam room in the bathroom?!
The Fortina claims their spa bedrooms are a world-first, and we can easily believe it. The bathroom had a large bath with a digital panel with seven different programmes to pummel your muscles into relaxed submission with bubbles and jets of water. Thoughtfully, there are sachets of seaweed to create a therapeutic experience, along with serum to smooth on your skin afterwards, or aromatherapy oil for a relaxing or uplifting bathe.
The shower really did transform into a steam room -- and a pleasingly hot one, too! Two seats inside, and sachets of mud, mean that you can have an authentic rasul experience with a friend or partner.
Dominating the bathroom, though, was a Dermalife machine. You climb into the "'pod", lie down, and pull the lid shut so your head pops through. Don't worry; the lid is easy to lift and close! You put your hand through a little "hand hole" to programme the panel. Push one button to start the vibrating base, which gives a surprisingly good foot-to-neck rolling massage. Another button starts the infra-red sauna, which heats up to 40ºC, to encourage you to sweat out toxins. The final buttons operate the face fans, which miraculously keep you totally cool while your body drips with sweat, and a red or blue light. You stay in the pod for 30 minutes. I wished I could have slept in it!
Incredibly relaxing and, apparently, the equivalent of a three-mile run!
Tearing myself regretfully away from the bathroom, I discovered a Jacuzzi and a proper Illy espresso machine in the bedroom. Everything to keep a Spa Spy happy!
But what of the spa? Well, the USP of the Fortina is that you can spa around the world. The Fortina has four separate but linked spa areas, offering around 200 spa treatments. You can try treatments from China, Japan, Indonesia, Sweden... the list is dizzyingly long. I visited The Belle Époque to try a Javanese lulur: just over two hours of head-to-toe pampering, including therapeutic massage. Lulur was traditionally part of an Indonesian bride ritual. Each day, for 40 days before the wedding, the bride would have this treatment. Lucky bride!
My lulur began with a massage that was unlike any European or, indeed, ayurvedic massage I've ever experienced: half the time, I felt tense as my therapist really worked my knotted muscles; the rest of the time, I was lulled to sleep by the deep rhythmic motions of her talented hands and the relaxing scent of the Frangipani oil. Next, a scrub of turmeric, rice and jasmine, which I showered off, and then a bubbling Cleopatra-style bath of ass's milk! The bath was black and in the dramatic setting of an Egyptian-themed room. I loved the theatricality of the treatment. My skin glowed with health and was silky soft afterwards.
The heat and wet facilities are in the Spa Sante area, well-equipped with everything from footbaths, Jacuzzi and experience showers, to a mesmerising Aqua Meditation room and salt-inhalation laconium.
Spa Mediterranée is where you'll find the therapeutic thalasso-pool. I tried a session with a trainer in the silky water. The pool is heated to 35ºC and has more salt than seawater. You easily float! In fact, it's impossible to swim on your front! Perfect for those recovering from injuries, or experiencing aches and pains. I loved the gentle moves that the instructor showed me, all so easy with your body supported by the water. The session ended with a powerful water massage from the in-pool jets and giant swan pipe.
Not only can you spa round the world, you can "eat" round the world, too, at six different restaurants: everything from the best Indian food I've ever tasted to healthy Italian, sushi and Thai; superb quality for an all-inclusive resort.
On one day, there was a heavy rain storm; over in a few hours, but, thanks to the delights in the spa bedroom, I was more than happy. At last: a holiday that the weather can't spoil!
Want to go?
3 nights' half board in a Spa Bedroom at the Fortina Spa Resort, including flights from Gatwick, start from £599 per person.
18th March 2014
Instant results; jasmine and frangipani scents; hot steam rooms; a good selection of magazines; modernist decor.
Whale noises (on CD, not in the pool hopefully); hard massage beds; tiny toilet cubicles; being spoken to like a child; lukewarm pools.
Behind the scenes